|When in doubt, tell the truth. - Mark Twain|
No. 81, Part I, 25 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 ADVOCATES INDEFINITE EXTENSION OF NPT; CAUTIONS AGAINST ABMS. Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev advocated the indefinite extension of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) at the NPT review conference in New York on 24 April, international agencies reported. He also expressed support for a comprehensive test ban and the total elimination of nuclear weapons, but noted that the latter was not possible in the near future. Meanwhile, in a New York Times interview published 25 April, Kozyrev cautioned the U.S. against developing an anti-ballistic missile (ABM) system in contravention of the 1972 treaty. He was particularly concerned about development of short- and medium- range ABM systems to handle long-range missiles. Russian Public Television reported 24 April that Kozyrev said he was "prepared to discuss" the Russian deal to provide nuclear aid to Iran, a major source of contention in U.S.-Russian relations. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. DEMOCRATIC RUSSIA ON CHECHNYA, ELECTION PLANS. Democratic Russia co- chairman Viktor Kurochkin predicted that federal authorities would reach a peaceful settlement with Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev in time for the 9 May ceremonies marking the 50th anniversary of V-E Day, Russian Television reported on 24 April. However, Kurochkin said the fighting in Chechnya would resume on 10 May and continue indefinitely, "because this war is waged against the people, not against illegal armed groups, and the people are invincible," Interfax reported. Meanwhile, party co- chairman Lev Ponomarev announced that Grigory Yavlinsky's Yabloko group, which Democratic Russia considers its closest potential ally, had rejected offers to form an electoral bloc for the December elections, Radio Rossii reported. Consequently, Democratic Russia plans to campaign for parliament independently. The party was founded in 1990 as a large umbrella movement for pro-democracy forces in the USSR, but since 1991, it has suffered many splits and defections. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. PRIBYLOVSKY ANALYZES PROSPECTS FOR DUMA ELECTIONS. The next State Duma will be even more anti-Yeltsin than the current one, political scientist Vladimir Pribylovsky told NTV 25 April. He sees a bright future for the Congress of Russian Communities, which may draw many of the military votes that went to Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party in 1993. The organization will do particularly well if General Alexander Lebed and Yury Skokov, former secretary of the Russian Security Council, can preserve their current alliance. Sergei Shakhrai's Party of Russian Unity and Concord has lost touch with its electorate, Pribylovsky said. Most of his support in 1993 came from Russia's national republics, but voters there oppose Yeltsin's campaign in Chechnya, which Shakhrai has supported. Pribylovsky sees little chance for a united democratic bloc. He believes that Grigory Yavlinsky's bloc will have the greatest support and that Yegor Gaidar's Russia's Democratic Choice will lose some of its current backing, but still surpass the 5% limit and enter the Duma. Pribylovsky said Boris Fedorov's Forward Russia and the new pro-Yeltsin Stable Russia will have trouble reaching the 5% barrier. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. COMMUNIST NEWSPAPER DENOUNCES RUTSKOI. Former Vice President Alexander Rutskoi, the leader of the patriotic Derzhava movement, described himself as a "free-sailing" politician who was running for president to change everything in Russia for the better, Interfax reported on 24 April. By contrast, an article in the 25 April edition of the pro- Communist Sovetskaya Rossiya called Rutskoi's recent public appearances "offensive." The author reminded readers that although Rutskoi was once one of Yeltsin's closest allies, the Derzhava leader refuses to admit responsibility for helping Yeltsin get elected in June 1991 or for the subsequent collapse of the USSR. Noting that Rutskoi attacks the Communists in his speeches as much as he attacks Yeltsin, the author speculated that Rutskoi was more concerned about his presidential ambitions than about cooperating with other opposition forces to save the country. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. DUMA GROUP SEEKS TO SHUT PRESIDENTIAL CHAMBER ON MEDIA DISPUTES. An unidentified group of Duma deputies intends to question the constitutionality of the Russian President's Judicial Chamber on Information Disputes, Izvestiya reported 25 April. The chamber grew out of a temporary information arbitration court that handled disputes over the way candidates presented themselves during the 1993 parliamentary campaign. Yeltsin liked the way the court operated and gave it permanent status on the last day of 1993. The chamber currently has no formal ability to enforce its decisions, but conceivably could be given considerable power to regulate the 1995 electoral campaign. The Duma deputies are preparing to challenge the chamber in order to assert greater control over the mass media in the wake of Yeltsin's creation of Russian Public Television last year. Izvestiya warned that "if the chamber is now under a cloud, then lightning will soon strike journalists" and the mass media will be subjected to new forms of political pressure. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. GOSKOMSTAT SAYS 45 MILLION RUSSIANS BELOW POVERTY LINE. Almost a third of Russians are now living below the poverty line, according to Goskomstat figures cited by Radio Mayak on 24 April. The report said that the number of people earning less than the minimum monthly subsistence wage--set at 260,000 rubles in Moscow and 195,000 rubles elsewhere--increased by 23% compared with the first quarter of 1994. The average monthly wage in Russia is now 326,000 rubles and the average cost of a minimum consumption basket of 19 basic goods is 164,000 rubles. According to a Russian Public Television report on 22 April, the poorest 20% of the population earn only 5-6% of total incomes, while the top 20% account for 45% of the total. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. CHUBAIS TO ASK IMF FOR $9 BILLION. Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais left for Washington 24 April to hold talks with the IMF about a $9 billion standby loan for 1996-1998, Interfax reported the same day. The IMF has recently approved a $6.8 billion loan for 1995. Chubais, who was appointed Russia's new representative to the IMF and the World Bank last week, will attend meetings of both organizations during his visit. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA MISSILE SILOS IN KAZAKHSTAN BEING DESTROYED. Russian missile troops have begun destroying some of Kazakhstan's SS-18 intercontinental ballistic missile silos, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 April. All the former Soviet missile silos in Kazakhstan will eventually be destroyed and the missile warheads returned to Russia as part of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START-I). There are two SS-18 missile fields in the country, and the first silos to be destroyed are part of the Derzhaivsk field in the Turgai region of northern Kazakhstan. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. CONDITIONS TERMED CRITICAL AT BAIKONUR. At a meeting chaired by First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets in Moscow, conditions at Kazakhstan's Baikonur space launch site and in the nearby town of Leninsk were described as critical, Interfax reported on 24 April. Repair and maintenance of the site's facilities have halted due to financing problems; workers in Leninsk's non-industrial sector have not been paid since January and are said to be abandoning the city in "droves." To date, Moscow has not remitted any of the 161 million rubles it allocated to the town. Russia is to pay $115 million annually in keeping with a recent agreement to lease the site for 20 years. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. ECONOMIC INTEGRATION EFFORTS IN CENTRAL ASIA. Meeting in Bishkek, the prime ministers of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan approved a five-year economic integration program, Interfax reported on 24 April. Over the next two years, they will give priority to cooperative production of small electrical engines, gas meters, medicines, and fertilizers derived from Aral Sea deposits. The meeting's outcome was expected; economic cooperation and prioritizing projects were on the agenda for the 14 April Chimkent tripartite summit of the republics' presidents. It appears that common positions on the inter-Tajik conflict and approaches to its resolution, prolongation of the president's term in office, and economic affairs--including participation in the customs union established by Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan--are emerging. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. CIS LUKASHENKA ON RUSSIAN AGREEMENTS. Nikolai Gonchar, head of the Committee on Russia's Federal Budget, met with Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in Minsk, Belarusian television reported on 21 April. Talks focused on increasing cooperation and implementing accords between Russia and Belarus. After the meeting, Lukashenka said that Belarus was ready to have open borders with Russia and a customs union, adding that he was unhappy that the accords still have not been implemented. Gonchar told the press that work continued on legislation regarding Russian and Belarusian financial working groups, and said the law could become the basis for the integration process. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. UKRAINE WILL NOT SIGN CIS BORDER AGREEMENTS. Ukraine's Deputy Defense Minister Col. Gen. Ivan Bizhan has said that the country did not sign agreements on the joint guarding of CIS borders at the 21 April CIS meeting of foreign ministers in Moscow, Ukrainian radio reported on 24 April. According to Bizhan, Ukraine will not sign such agreements because it does not recognize the concept of common CIS borders with non-CIS states. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. CIS BANK URGES ITS OWN ELIMINATION. The Council of the Inter-State Bank, established in 1993 to oversee relations between the CIS central banks, will urge that CIS heads of state eliminate the bank when they meet in May. Vyacheslav Solvov, vice chairman of Russia's Central Bank and the country's representative on the council, told Interfax 24 April that the decline in ruble-based transactions between central banks and the increase in commercial banks' interstate transactions have left the Inter-State Bank without a role to play. "Inter-state banking operations are run by commercial banks," Solovov said. He did, however, support the idea put forward by commercial banks that an international bank be set up to handle trade turnover within the CIS. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. GRACHEV ENDORSES KOZYREV STATEMENTS. Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev welcomed the hard line that Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev has taken in favor of defending ethnic Russians in the near abroad, Interfax reported 24 April. Grachev said the problem was particularly acute in Tajikistan, and indicated that he had made his views on protecting Russian soldiers known to the Tajik representatives at the CIS Defense and Foreign Ministers' meeting 21 April. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. [As of 1200 CET] Compiled by Carla Atkinson 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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