|Absence makes the heart grow fonder. -|
No. 79, Part I, 21 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 KOZYREV SAYS IT AGAIN. On 20 April, Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev repeated his statement that Russia has the right to use its military to defend ethnic Russians living abroad. Kozyrev defended his comments by saying that U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher has asserted an American right to use military force to defend its interests abroad, international agencies reported. Kozyrev expressed surprise at the strong foreign reaction to his comments. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Grigory Karasin told Interfax that Kozyrev's statements do not signal a change in Russian foreign policy and Kozyrev himself said he has been saying similar things over the last five years. Karasin called the Baltic States' reaction "somewhat strange." He stressed that Kozyrev's comments are not related to the minister's Duma election campaign. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. BOYKO JOINS IZVESTIYA BOARD OF DIRECTORS. Oleg Boyko, chairman of the National Credit Bank and the Olbi-Trust investment company, has joined the 13-member board of directors of Izvestiya, Kommersant-Daily reported on 20 April. Olbi-Trust owns a 6% share in Izvestiya, and Boyko has maintained informal links with the newspaper in the past. Kommersant- Daily suggested that although Boyko is "a staunch centrist and advocate of the status quo," his new position is unlikely to change Izvestiya's editorial policy. The paper speculated that Boyko joined the board "not because he wants to change the paper's line, but precisely because its current line suits him." In March, Boyko resigned as executive committee chairman of Russia's Democratic Choice to help form the pro-presidential Duma group Stability. Soon after, he suggested in an interview with Kommersant-Daily that Russia's "big eight" banks favor postponing parliamentary and presidential elections for at least two years to stabilize the country's political and economic climate. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. OLD-STYLE COMMUNIST PARTIES TO FORM SINGLE BLOC FOR PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS. Oleg Shenin, chairman of the hard-line Union of Communist Parties, said Russia's Communist parties would form a bloc for this year's parliamentary elections, Interfax reported on 20 April. Shenin said 21 Communist parties from across the former Soviet Union would hold a June congress in Moscow to prepare an election strategy. He added that the bloc would nominate one candidate for next year's scheduled presidential elections. Viktor Anpilov, leader of the extremist group Workers' Russia and the Russian Communist Workers' Party, told Interfax that the bloc intended to attract voters who boycotted the December 1993 parliamentary elections. Shenin and Anpilov are calling for the reconstruction of the USSR as a communist state. They have rejected Gennady Zyuganov's Communist Party of the Russian Federation as a compromising, "social-democratic" party rather than a genuinely communist one. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. IZVESTIYA EXAMINES POLITICAL TENDENCIES IN THE MILITARY. The average lieutenant gives low ratings to politicians across the spectrum, from Vladimir Zhirinovsky to Yegor Gaidar, according to a study published in Izvestiya on 21 April. Among the country's leaders, the most popular are Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets, and State Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin, although opinions about those figures range from indifferent to well-disposed. The study demonstrates that none of the current political parties have much support among officers, including Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party which had strong military support in the December 1993 elections. However, the data also show that a well-known general, such as Boris Gromov or Alexander Lebed, could attract the support of many military voters. In the presidential elections, there is no clear front-runner among the candidates, and the researchers hypothesize that the military vote will be determined more by individual preferences than corporate interests. The study asserts that there is little support among the officers for a military takeover of the government, but points to the fact that the military is distancing itself from politics in general, and the current incumbents in particular, as a cause for concern. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. VEDENKIN REGISTERED AS CANDIDATE. Alexei Vedenkin, who said on television that he would execute Duma members Sergei Yushenkov and Sergei Kovalev if he came to power, has submitted the necessary documents to run as a candidate in a Duma by-election on 14 May, Russian Radio reported. He needed more than 5,000 signatures from the residents of Kolomna in Moscow oblast to be registered for the vote. Vedenkin will soon be tried for his threats to kill the outspoken critics of the Chechen war, but the radio station warns that a conviction will only make him more popular among voters. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. YELTSIN DOUBLES MINIMUM WAGE. President Boris Yeltsin has signed a compromise bill increasing the minimum wage from 20,500 rubles ($4) a month to 43,700 ($8.60) as of 1 May, Russian Public Television reported on 20 April. An intermediate rate of 34,400 ($6.80) rubles will apply in April. In February, Yeltsin had vetoed a draft that raised the minimum to 54,100 rubles ($10.70) on the grounds that the country could not afford it. According to Finance Minister Vladimir Panskov, the new rate will entail additional expenditure of 3 trillion rubles ($592 million) for the federal government and 6 trillion rubles ($1.2 billion) for local authorities--spending that is "tenable" as far as the budget is concerned, AFP reported. Also on 20 April, Yeltsin signed a law increasing the minimum pension to 43,739 rubles ($8.65) a month as of 1 May; other pensions will be raised proportionally. When parliament approved the bill last week, Deputy Labor Minister Valery Yanvarev was quoted by Interfax as saying it could produce a "tough monetary situation," because it would require an estimated 1 trillion rubles extra per month. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. CONFUSION OVER CHECHNYA CEASEFIRE. Sporadic fighting continued between federal troops and Chechen forces around the southwestern village of Bamut, Interfax reported on 20 April. An aide to Russian President Boris Yeltsin subsequently denied an unconfirmed ITAR-TASS report on 20 April that Yeltsin had ordered an unconditional ceasefire in Chechnya, according to AFP. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. LUKIN WARNS THAT RUSSIA MAY TAKE THE "CENTRAL ASIAN" PATH. Vladimir Lukin, chairman of the Duma Foreign Affairs Committee, said his country may take the "Central Asian" path of using perfunctory referenda to extend presidential terms, deferring parliamentary elections, and restricting civil rights, if the West abandons Russia after the 9 May V- E Day celebrations, Interfax reported on 20 April. Lukin said the West has failed to appreciate President Yeltsin's commitment to constitutional democracy, which is expressed by his willingness to hold parliamentary and presidential elections on schedule. He said Russia faces enormous geopolitical difficulties that could be compounded if it departed from its voluntary transition to democracy. Lukin added, "constitutional issues are primarily our internal affair. However, the situation is such that this also concerns our national security." -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA INTER-TAJIK TALKS DEADLOCKED. The talks that opened in Moscow on 19 April between representatives of the Tajik government, the opposition Islamic Renaissance Movement of Tajikistan, the UN, and the Russian Foreign Ministry broke off almost immediately, according to Interfax on 19 April and Nezavisimaya gazeta on 20 April. The talks were cut off after Akbar Turadzhonzoda, head of the Tajik opposition delegation, issued a statement protesting Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev's affirmation at the opening ceremony that Russia would respond "with all necessary means" to recent attacks against its troops stationed on the border between Afghanistan and Tajikistan's Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region. On 20 April, Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov reiterated his readiness to meet with opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri "at any time and place," Interfax reported. At a 20 April meeting with UN representative Ramiro Piriz Ballon, the opposition delegation announced it would only participate in the fourth round of UN-mediated talks on resolving the conflict on condition that government troops withdraw from Gorno-Badakhshan and Russian army and border troops observe the September 1994 ceasefire agreement, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 21 April. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. GEORGIA DENIES PLANS TO SELL FIGHTER AIRCRAFT TO IRAN. Georgian Prime Minister Otar Patsatsia has denied rumors that the visit by Iranian President Ali Akbar Rafsanjani to a Tbilisi aircraft factory during his three-day official visit to Georgia (his first to a CIS member state) is linked to plans for the purchase of SU-25 fighter aircraft, Western agencies reported. A similar denial was issued at the time of Georgian head of state Eduard Shevardnadze's official visit to Tehran in January 1993. No details were released of Rafsanjani's 45-minute talk with Shevardnadze. Rafsanjani had stated before traveling to Georgia on 19 April that Iran is interested in using Georgia's transportation facilities--including the Black Sea ports of Poti and Batumi which he will visit--to export Iranian goods to Europe. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. CIS CIS DEFENSE MINISTERS MEETING IN MOSCOW. The CIS Defense Ministers Council extended its peacekeeping mandate in Tajikistan until the end of 1995 subject to the approval of CIS leaders, Interfax reported on 19 April. CIS Executive Secretary Ivan Korotchenya said the 21 April meeting of CIS foreign and defense ministers may also consider extending the mandate of CIS peacekeepers in Abkhazia, due to expire on 16 May. However, he said the decision would require a formal request by Georgian leader Eduard Shevardnadze. Korotchenya admitted the 1992 CIS collective security treaty "did not work as it should." He stressed that strengthening CIS military cooperation is important, considering NATO's intention to expand. Meanwhile, Russian Defense Minister Grachev said the situation in Tajikistan also demonstrates the need for greater cooperation in the CIS between frontier troops and the military. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. UKRAINIAN NAVAL BASE MAIN PROBLEM IN FLEET TALKS. Admiral Felix Gromov, commander-in-chief of the Black Sea Fleet, told Interfax on 20 April that Ukrainian insistence on using Sevastopol as their fleet's headquarters was the main problem hindering a solution to the problem of the fleet's division, Interfax reported. The two countries have already agreed that Sevastopol would be the main base for the Russian Black Sea Fleet. Former fleet commander Admiral Igor Kasatonov--now a first deputy commander-in-chief of the Russian navy--said Ukraine's goal in the talks is to push Russia out of Crimea. He said Kiev is now insisting on the withdrawal of Russian naval aviation units, coast guards, marines, and other land-based units. He complained that during three years of talks, the Ukrainians have failed to suggest anything reasonable. "Today they offer one thing, tomorrow another, and the day after tomorrow they revive the original version," he said. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. UNIFORM CONSTITUTION PLANNED FOR CIS MEMBER STATES? A uniform constitution for adoption by all CIS member states is currently being drafted, according to unconfirmed information circulated at a meeting of the National Democratic Party of Georgia in early March and published in Iveria-Ekspresi on 10-13 March. The report claims that Kartlos Gharibashvili, the Georgian chairman of the CIS Inter-Parliamentary Legal Commission, has initiated plans for a "super-parliament" for CIS member states. -- Liz Fuller, 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. 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