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No. 82, Part I, 26 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 CHERNOMYRDIN FORMS ELECTORAL BLOC. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin will lead a centrist movement of democratic forces for the upcoming parliamentary elections, Russian and western agencies reported on 25 April. Chernomyrdin said the bloc was created to prevent extremists from winning the upcoming elections and to help form a government that will be backed by a majority in the Duma after the elections, Ekho Moskvy reported. Chernomyrdin confirmed that parliamentary elections will be held on schedule and said his movement would "create the conditions for normal work" in Russia. The movement hopes to attract widespread regional support; Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Shakrai's Party of Russian Unity and Accord and the Duma groups Stability and New Regional Policy will join Chernomyrdin's bloc, Russian Television reported. Shakhrai said a strong centrist movement will help "stabilize the situation" in Russia and "overcome the chaos" that has characterized the parliamentary campaign to date, Ekho Moskvy reported. In the past, Chernomyrdin has described himself as a professional economic planner, not a politician. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. REACTION TO CHERNOMYRDIN ANNOUNCEMENT. President Boris Yeltsin welcomed the new Chernomyrdin bloc, which he said would attract voters who value "experience and professionalism," Interfax reported on 25 April. Appearing on Russian Television, Duma deputy Vyacheslav Nikonov, a member of Shakhrai's party, said the movement would "express the interests of voters" and facilitate "coordinated actions" among all branches of power. Others denounced the new bloc. Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky asserted on Moscow Television that having realized the government could not credibly postpone elections, Chernomyrdin's main goal was to win the elections and "leave everything like it is today." Liberal Democratic Party member and Duma Deputy Chairman Alexander Vengerovsky complained, "The government is supposed to manage the country . . . . It is when these people go in for politics instead of working in their offices that the country sinks into chaos," Ekho Moskvy reported. Duma Constitutional Legislation Committee Chairman Vladimir Isakov of the Agrarian party called Chernomyrdin's announcement "improper," since the constitution forbids the government from participating in politics, Interfax reported. A Radio Rossii commentator predicted that the prime minister would have trouble leading an electoral bloc and the cabinet at the same time. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. RYBKIN APPARENTLY FORMS NEW POLITICAL BLOC. President Yeltsin also welcomed the new left-center bloc that will apparently be led by Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin, according to Stability's Alexei Alexandrov, who met with Yeltsin 25 April, Interfax reported. The coalition includes Mikhail Shmakov's Federation of Independent Trade Unions, Vasily Lipitsky's Social Democratic Union, the Russian United Industrial Party, Yury Petrov's Union of Realists, and Lyudmila Vartazarova's Socialist Workers' Party. Rybkin, a member of the Agrarian Party, neither confirmed nor denied that he will lead the new coalition, Russian TV and Interfax reported. He said he plans to discuss the issue of the Agrarian Party joining the group with party leader Mikhail Lapshin when Lapshin returns from his tour of the country This bloc will seek to attract the votes that might otherwise go to the Congress of Russian Communities, former Vice President Alexander Rutskoi's Derzhava, Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party, and the Communists. Viktor Zorkaltsev, deputy leader of the communist group in the State Duma, said that the communists are prepared to consider all proposals about forming a bloc, Interfax reported. The Russia deputies' group is likely to join, according to its chairman Igor Shichanin. That group now brings together 38 Duma members. NTV speculated that the Women of Russia would also enter the alliance. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. REACTION TO APPEARANCE OF BOTH BLOCS. Rossiiskie vesti of 26 April evaluated the appearance of Chernomyrdin's and Rybkin's bloc positively as proof that "Russian politics is becoming more civilized." The simultaneous appearance of the two blocs appears to be part of Yeltsin's efforts to combat the rise of political extremism, signaled first by his 23 March decree on fascism. Radio Rossii, however, said that the blocs' main weakness is that voters will have trouble differentiating their programs, both of which stress continuity rather than radical changes. The station predicts that such an approach will not attract many voters. Russian Television speculates that Chernomyrdin and Rybkin will now be the main contenders for the post of the Russian presidency in 1996. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. LEBED TO RESIGN HIS POST? Reforms ordered by Defense Minister Pavel Grachev may prompt 14th Army commander, Lieut-Gen. Alexander Lebed to resign, Russian agencies reported on 25 April. Grachev's decree will reorganize the 14th Army command, forcing Lebed to choose between several other military positions offered to him, presumably not in the Trans-Dniester region of Moldova. Lebed told Ekho Moskvy that he had not yet decided how to respond to Grachev's order. "I will not agree to assume any other office," Lebed said. "So in all probability, the man you are speaking to is a potential pensioner." An NTV correspondent speculated that if he resigns, Lebed may join the election campaign as a leader of the Congress of Russian Communities. Lebed's threat to resign may foreshadow deeper involvement of military men in Russian politics, according to an observer on military matters for Moskovskie novosti. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. JUSTICE MINSTER JOINS SECURITY COUNCIL. President Yeltsin has appointed Minister of Justice Valentin Kovalev to be a member of the Security Council, the president's press service announced 25 April according to Interfax. Kovalev's appointment as Justice Minister was controversial because he was part of the Communist bloc in the Duma. Since joining the cabinet, he has supported the Kremlin policy in Chechnya. The Security Council has played a major role in formulating that policy. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIANS AND AMERICANS PLANNING NEXT JOINT EXERCISE. A Russian military working group flew to the U.S. on 25 April to discuss upcoming joint peacekeeping exercises with their American counterparts. Colonel Nikolai Malyshev, head of the ground forces' press center, told Interfax that preliminary planning for the exercises, which will be held in the U.S. in 1996, would involve more than 100 service personnel from each country. The Russian contingent will come from the 27th Motorized Rifle Division--one of two divisions designated for peacekeeping roles. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. WORLD BANK APPROVES LOANS FOR RUSSIA. On 25 April, Russia and the World Bank signed loan agreements totaling $555.8 million to fund economic reform and the cleanup of a massive oil spill near the Arctic Circle, Western agencies reported. The World Bank's commitments to Russia now amount to $3.6 billion. The new loans include $400 million to support the creation of private housing markets in a number of cities; $16.8 million to modernize the tax system; $40 million for training personnel in the financial industry; and $99 million to help clean up more than 100,000 tons of oil that leaked last year from a pipeline in the Komi Republic. Officials have described the last project as "a race against time" to contain the oil before the spring thaw. Also on 25 April, Interfax reported a fracture in an oil pipeline in Tyumen Oblast that caused a spill covering 30 hectares. The accident was said to have occurred on 19 April, but the management of the local oil company Megionneftgaz did not report it. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. RUBLE RATE WILL NOT BE FIXED. Russia's Economy Minister Yevgeny Yasin said in a 25 April Interfax interview that the "national currency will stabilize without the need to fix the rate." He commented that the ruble rate's gradual slide in line with inflation would be more favorable for Russia. Yasin said that a steady ruble and rising prices would affect home producers and exporters. As imports become cheaper, it may create the illusion that the market is being saturated, prices are falling and living standards are stabilizing, he said. Yasin said the Central Bank itself make a decision about interest rates. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. RUBLE SLIDES 16 POINTS AGAINST DOLLAR. The ruble slid 16 points on 25 April to 5,081 rubles to $1 on MICEX trading, the Financial Information Agency reported. Market trading volume stood at $85.04 million for initial demand of $85.06 million against supply of $65.4 million. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. IRAQ GRANTS RUSSIA RIGHT TO DEVELOP OIL FIELDS. Iraq has granted Russia the right to develop two major oil fields and Fuel and Energy Minister Yuri Shafranik is in Baghdad to discuss possible cooperation on a range of energy projects, ITAR-TASS reported 25 April. However, any agreements would take effect only after the UN lifts sanctions against Iraq. When asked why Russia was selected to develop fields that are in the southeast of the country, Iraqi Oil Minister Safa' Hadi Jawad al-Habubi said, "Russians are our friends, and we are maintaining good relations with them." -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA KAZAKHSTAN FREE OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS. All Soviet-era nuclear warheads have been transferred from Kazakhstan to Russia, Colonel General Viktor Yesin, Russian Strategic Missile Forces chief of staff, told ITAR-TASS on 25 April. When Kazakhstan became independent, it had 104 giant SS-18 intercontinental ballistic missiles on its territory, each loaded with 10 nuclear warheads. Yesin said the transfer was completed 24 April. According to the terms of the Lisbon protocol to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START-1), Kazakhstan--along with Belarus and Ukraine-- pledged to eliminate the strategic nuclear weapons on their territories by 1999. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. WAR OF WORDS OVER BLACK SEA FLEET IMPASSE. The Russian Foreign Ministry reacted quickly to Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma's 24 April statement that Ukraine could not accept Russia's proposals on the Black Sea Fleet issue--particularly its demand for all of Sevastopol as a Russian naval base. On 25 April, a "high official" of the ministry told ITAR-TASS that Russia's stand on the issue was "fair morally and justified" legally. The government favors establishing separate bases for the two resulting fleets, "which is the exact wording of the agreement on state-by-stage settlement of the problem signed by the presidents of Russia and Ukraine in April 1994." Kuchma said that the Black Sea Fleet problem was one of territory and not ships. The Russian official countered that there had been nothing in Russia's stand on territory during the three years of negotiations that had warranted the slightest Ukrainian concern. "Those who raise this problem now," he added, "are inventing it." -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. CIS CIS TO STUDY JOINT STAFF. Lieutenant General Leonid Ivashov, secretary of the CIS Council of Defense Ministers, said 24 April that the CIS defense ministers plan to set up a Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee of the CIS Armed Forces, Kommersant-Daily reported the next day. The committee will be comprised of the chiefs of the general staffs of the CIS national forces, who will conduct a "profound analysis of program, theoretical, and practical matters and the coordination of the operations of CIS armies' staffs," Ivashov said. -- 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. 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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