|[America,] it is the only place where miracles not only happen, but where they happen all the time. - Thomas Wolfe|
No. 80, Part I, 24 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 DUMA CLARIFIES POSITION ON ELECTORAL LAWS. The State Duma agreed to lower the number of signatures presidential candidates must collect to one million from 1.5 million, with 340 deputies supporting the Federation Council's recommendation, Interfax reported. By a vote of 174-100 and six abstentions, the Duma rejected the upper house's proposal to lower the minimum voter turnout required to make the elections valid to 25% from 50%. The Duma also rejected President Boris Yeltsin's proposal on choosing future members of the Council. The deputies supported a joint Duma/Council bill, by a vote of 300-14 with two abstentions, to elect the members directly, rather than have each of the regions' and republics' legislative and executive branches appoint a member. The Duma also rejected the Council's amendments to the Duma electoral law. By a vote of 259-68 with two abstentions, the Duma voted again to elect half of its members on party lists and half in single member districts. Only 133 deputies supported the Council's suggestion to elect all members in single-mandate districts. If the Council rejects the bill again, and the Duma cannot muster 300 votes to overcome the upper house's veto, the two chambers will have to resolve their differences in a conciliatory committee. Presidential Chief of Staff Sergei Filatov said the parliamentary elections will be held on 17 December and the campaign will officially begin on 17 September. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. DUMA BY-ELECTION CAMPAIGN HEATS UP. Almost all of the eleven candidates running to replace murdered deputy Sergei Skorochkin in the Kolomna district by-election come from the irreconcilable opposition, according to NTV. The station speculated that the campaign could foreshadow the tone of the December parliamentary election. According to Ekho Moskvy, the lists of signatures collected by registered candidates Alexei Vedenkin, who has threatened to kill two Duma members, and Yelena Mavrodi, wife of MMM Director Sergei Mavrodi, include falsified signatures. The local prosecutor is currently looking into the matter. NTV broadcast Vedenkin's appeal to Kolomna district voters on 22 April: "If you vote for me, your life will be happy. I guarantee it." -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. CHARGES OF VOTE-RIGGING IN 1993 ELECTIONS. Duma deputies from the Communist Party, Russia's Choice, and Yabloko factions have asked the Central Electoral Commission to release the full results of the December 1993 parliamentary elections and referendum on Russia's constitution, Interfax and Russian Television reported on 21 April. Communist Anatoly Lukyanov claimed the commission, which still has not released complete election figures from the regions, destroyed ballot papers in order to make a re-count impossible, Interfax reported. According to the weekly Novoe vremya, computer results show irregularities in certain regions with strong pro-Yeltsin constituencies, where the total number of votes tallied for and against the constitution exceeded the official turnout. Since the adoption of the constitution, which assigns much greater powers to the president than the parliament, some of Yeltsin's critics have made persistent charges that the electoral commission falsified results to achieve the necessary 50% turnout for the vote to be legally binding. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. KOVALEV TO REFUSE PARLIAMENTARY IMMUNITY. Human rights advocate Sergei Kovalev asked the Duma to adopt a special resolution depriving him of parliamentary immunity, Russian agencies reported on 22 April. In doing so, Kovalev noted accusations from inside and outside the Duma that he should be prosecuted for stirring up ethnic hatred and treason. In March, the Duma voted to remove the outspoken Kovalev from the post of Duma human rights commissioner. On 19 April, Duma Chechnya Commission Chairman Stanislav Govorukhin suggested opening a criminal case against Kovalev for distributing "pro-Chechen propaganda" regarding atrocities committed by the Russian army at Samashki. Although Kovalev continues to insist that hundreds of civilians were killed in Samashki, Col.-Gen. Anatoly Kulikov once again asserted that even Chechen fighters dismiss Kovalev as a "political prostitute," NTV reported on 23 April. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. COMMUNISTS MARK LENIN'S 125TH BIRTHDAY. More than a thousand members of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation gathered in Moscow to celebrate the 125th anniversary of Vladimir Ilych Lenin's birth, Russian agencies reported on 22 April. Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov credited Lenin with turning a war-torn country into a unified state with "a mighty army, a new economic policy, and a stable ruble." The party adopted a resolution declaring that the 21st century will be "a century of triumph for Leninism." Meanwhile, at a rival demonstration held by the extremist left-wing group Workers' Russia, Viktor Anpilov spoke of the need to employ "Bolshevik methods of battle" against the current government, Radio Rossii reported. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. FIGHTING CONTINUES IN CHECHNYA. Russian reinforcements were dispatched to the contested village of Bamut on 21 April, and launched new artillery and air attacks against Chechen forces in the surrounding hills on 23 April, Western agencies reported. In an appeal read to the opening session of the Conference on National Accord on 21 April, Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin reaffirmed Russia's readiness for unconditional peace talks with Chechen military leaders. He guaranteed an amnesty to all Chechen fighters "not guilty of grave crimes" who lay down their arms, according to ITAR-TASS and Interfax. The conference was attended by members of the Chechen government and commanders of troops loyal to Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. CHUBAIS NEW REPRESENTATIVE TO IMF, WORLD BANK. Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais will serve as his country's representative to the IMF and the World Bank, international agencies reported on 22 April. Chubais will replace former Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Shokhin at the IMF, and former Central Bank head Viktor Gerashchenko at the World Bank. President Yeltsin also appointed Economics Minister Yevgeny Yasin to serve as Chubais' deputy at the World Bank and Finance Minister Vladimir Panskov to perform the same function at the IMF. In addition, ITAR-TASS reported that Gerashchenko has also been dismissed from his post as a representative to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Meanwhile, on 22 April, Kommersant-Daily interpreted the appointment of Mikhail Sarafanov to the post of deputy foreign trade minister as a move by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Trade Oleg Davydov to improve his relations with the economic liberals in the government led by Chubais. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIAN ARMS TO SOUTH KOREA FOR DEBT. The South Korean Defense Ministry reported on 21 April that South Korea has agreed to accept Russian arms as partial repayment of its loans to Russia, Yonhap reported on 22 April. Under the agreement, South Korea will get T-80U tanks, BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicles, and two types of missiles. The deal--said to be worth $200 million--will also include parts and ammunition. A Defense Ministry official said the Russian T-80U tanks are superior to North Korean tanks. The missiles offered in the deal are the "Igla" man- portable air defense system and the "Metis-M" wire-guided antitank missile. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. DUMA SEEKS TO RESTRICT GOVERNMENT'S PRIVATIZATION POWERS. On 21 April, the Duma passed in the first reading a law that requires parliamentary approval for most transactions involving state-owned shares in privatized enterprises, Kommersant-Daily reported on 22 April. The draft was submitted by Sergei Burkov, the chairman of the Property, Privatization, and Economic Activity Committee, who has been a vocal critic of the government's privatization plans. He argues that the government's need to raise revenue is likely to result in the disposal of state shares in strategically important enterprises at knock-down prices. An alternative draft by the State Property Committee, which would have left most decision-making in the government's hands, was rejected. The 1995 budget envisages revenues of 9.1 trillion rubles through the sale of federally owned blocks of shares in privatized enterprises--a target the government is unlikely to reach without resorting to such unconventional maneuvers as borrowing money from commercial banks in return for collateral in the form of state-owned shares. Kommersant-Daily speculated that the clash over privatization signals the beginning of a more acrimonious phase in relations between the parliament and the government on economic issues now that the budget has been passed and loans from the IMF have been obtained. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. RUBLE CLIMB HALTED. After gaining in value against the dollar for three consecutive days, the ruble fell again on 21 April, closing at 5,053 rubles to the dollar--a drop of two points. The volume of trading was $100.03 million. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIA DENIES REPORTS OF TROOP WITHDRAWAL OFFER. On 21 April, the Armenian Foreign Ministry reiterated its denial of reports by Western media that President Levon Ter-Petrossyan had offered to withdraw Armenian troops from Azerbaijan in exchange for a lifting of the Azerbaijani blockade on his country, Interfax reported. According to the statement, there are no troops of the Republic of Armenia in Nagorno- Karabakh. Presidential spokesman Levon Zurabyan told Interfax that Armenia is ready to exchange hostages and prisoners at any time. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. TALKS CONTINUE IN MOSCOW, SO DOES VIOLENCE ON TAJIK BORDER. With the 50- day extension of a ceasefire agreement signed in Tehran last September due to expire on 26 April, diplomatic activity has accelerated from Dushanbe to the Russian capital. Ali Akbar Turadzhonzoda, the leader of the opposition delegation, said in Moscow that he hoped a meeting with Tajik President Emomali Rakhmanov could take place in mid-May, according to Western agencies. Rakhmanov said on 21 April that he is ready to meet with Islamic opposition leader Said Abdulla Nuri "anytime, anywhere," Interfax reported. The foreign ministers of Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan called on the warring factions to hasten UN- sponsored negotiations. In the area along the Pyanj River, border forces repelled a rebel attempt to cross over from Afghanistan on 23 April. Interfax reported that five rebels were killed, but AFP cited nine deaths. No casualties were reported among the border guards. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc. CIS CIS MINISTERS AGREE TO EXTEND MANDATE IN TAJIKISTAN, ABKHAZIA. The CIS foreign and defense ministers agreed on 21 April to extend the mandate for peacekeeping in Tajikistan and Abkhazia until the end of 1995, international agencies reported. The CIS border guard commanders were also in attendance. The agreement must still be approved by the CIS heads of state at their 26 May meeting. The ministers also drew up plans to settle the Tajik and Abkhaz conflicts, ITAR-TASS reported. In addition, Interfax reported that the director of the CIS department in the Russian Foreign Ministry, Leonid Drachevsky, said all matters on the meeting's agenda were agreed to in principle, except for a CIS convention on human rights. At the meeting, Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev said he hoped there would be no need to use force in any former Soviet republic state, except collectively "for safeguarding the interests of our compatriots." The statement is a somewhat toned down variation of assertions he had made throughout the week on the Russian right to intervene militarily to protect the rights of ethnic Russians. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. MARCHUK: RUSSIA CANNOT USE SEVASTOPOL AS FLEET HEADQUARTERS. Ukrainian acting Prime Minister Yevgeni Marchuk said his country "will never allow the Black Sea Fleet to be headquartered de facto--and even less so de jure--in Sevastopol," Interfax reported on 22 April. Marchuk said that while Ukraine has not declared the previous presidential agreements on the Black Sea Fleet null and void, all those agreements "make no sense." He added that Russian President Yeltsin had told him at their recent Moscow meeting that he would not visit Kiev until the problem of dividing the fleet is resolved. -- Doug Clarke, 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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