|Comedy is an escape, not from truth but from despair; a narrow escape into faith. - Christopher Fry|
No. 85, Part I, 2 May 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 BLOC NAMES LEADERS. First Deputy Prime Minster Oleg Soskovets and the governor of the Samara Oblast, Konstantin Titov, will be deputy leaders of Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's new bloc, Interfax reported 29 April. First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais, Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Shakhrai, Cabinet Chief of Staff Vladimir Babichev, Labor Minister Gennady Melikyan, Communications Minister Vladimir Bulgak, Minister for Emergency Situations Sergei Shoigu, and the Minister for Railroads Gennady Fadeev will join the steering committee. Industry will be represented by directors of several industrial concerns. Regional leaders on the committee include the presidents of Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, Kabardino-Balkaria and North Ossetia, as well as the governors of the Astrakhan, Orenburg, and Orel regions. Leaders of the deputy groups Stability and New Regional Policies will also join. At its 29 April meeting, the committee decided that the constituent congress will take place 12 May. The bloc will be called Our Home--Russia. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. DERZHAVA LEADER SEES BRIGHT FUTURE FOR NEW BLOC; COMMUNIST DISAGREES. Viktor Kobelev, Deputy Chairman of former Vice President Alexander Rutskoi's Derzhava movement, said that Chernomyrdin's bloc had a serious chance of winning the parliamentary elections, Interfax reported 30 April. He said that he had been afraid that the authorities would make such a move because people could now vote for the bloc rather than the communists, the Liberal Democratic Party, or Derzhava. He said that he would propose that Derzhava alter its positions to give greater support to the market economy and liberalization. On the left-center bloc supposed to be led by Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin, he said that the president's advisors had let Rybkin down by declaring that he could head the new bloc, since such an announcement would hurt Rybkin's standing in the opinion polls. Meanwhile, State Duma Deputy Chairman Gennady Seleznev, a member of the Communist faction, predicted that the Chernomyrdin and Rybkin blocs would not survive the election campaign. He said that they were artificial creations to show visitors in Moscow for the World War II celebrations that Yeltsin had the elections under control. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. MAY DAY PROTESTS. Tens of thousands of people took part in May Day rallies across Russia protesting the policies of President Boris Yeltsin and the government, Western and Russian agencies reported. Two demonstrations were staged in Moscow. The first, organized by trade unions, attracted about 15,000 people, according to Interfax. It was addressed by Mikhail Shmakov, the chairman of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia (FNPR), and Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov, both of whom spoke of the need for unity in the run-up to the elections. The second rally, organized by hard-line communist groups such as Viktor Anpilov's Workers' Russia, was attended by about 8,000 people carrying red flags and banners displaying traditional communist slogans. In St. Petersburg, about 20,000 people marched in a rally sponsored by local trade unions and procommunist movements, which passed a resolution condemning the government's "criminal" policy and demanding social safeguards for working people. About 10,000 also took to the streets in Vladivostok, according to ITAR-TASS. Estimates of the total number of demonstrators vary widely: the FNPR claims as many as 3 million took part, double the number it says participated in the union's 12 April day of action, while police argue that the real figure is "a dozen times less." -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. DUDAEV FORCES IGNORE RUSSIAN CEASEFIRE. The 14-day unilateral ceasefire in Chechnya proposed by Russian President Boris Yeltsin was systematically violated by Chechen forces after going into effect at midnight on 27 April, Russian and Western agencies reported. In a statement carried by Interfax on 29 April, Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev rejected the ceasefire outright and called for the withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya, while Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin suggested that the ceasefire could be extended as a first step towards a lasting peace, according to Western agencies. Also on 29 April, an OSCE delegation visiting the contested village of Bamut was subjected to machinegun fire from Russian troops, AFP reported. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. YELTSIN SIGNS CONSCRIPTION LAW, ADDS DEFERMENTS. Russian President Boris Yeltsin on 30 April signed the controversial law on compulsive military service together with a decree that exempts some graduates and graduate students from the draft. The new law extends military service for conscripts from 18 to 24 months. Yuri Baturin, Yeltsin's national security advisor, told Interfax that the president had been inclined not to sign the law but had been swayed by both the arguments of those who called for steps to ensure the country's security and those who warned that eliminating all scholastic deferments would cripple Russian science and state industry. Accordingly, he signed the law but added the decree giving deferments to certain graduate students and those graduates who are pursuing their careers in state-run organizations. Defense Minister Pavel Grachev immediately signed an implementing order calling for the induction of 209,800 18 to 27 year-olds in the spring draft. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. ROLES OF MEDIA AND GOVERNMENT DISCUSSED AT JOURNALISTS' CONGRESS. Appearing at the fourth congress of the Union of Russian Journalists, Yeltsin's chief of staff Sergei Filatov praised the expansion of the free press in Russia, Interfax reported. Filatov noted that by the end of 1994, 2364 newspapers, 2219 magazines, 304 television programs, 186 radio programs, and 104 information agencies had been registered. He also said the authorities hoped the mass media would provide "understanding and participation in the common task of building a new democratic Russia," Russian Television reported on 28 April. Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Shakhrai suggested that the government and journalists sign an agreement on coordinating activities and "mutual responsibility." However, Party of Economic Freedom leader Konstantin Borovoi said showing the public "the light at the end of the tunnel" was a job for the government, not for journalists. Borovoi said the press should be critical of the authorities. Meanwhile, director of state- owned Radio Mayak Vladimir Povolyaev told Interfax on 1 May that his company will run out of money to broadcast by 7 May. Povolyaev complained that budget allocations for state-run radio account for only 25% of his company's operating expenses. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. FINANCE MINISTRY AND CENTRAL BANK PROCLAIM MONETARY POLICY SUCCESS. Russia's monetary and crediting policy has resulted in lower inflation, according to the Finance Ministry and Central Bank's press service report, Interfax reported on 30 April. The report estimated the inflation rate for April at 8%, compared to 17.8% in January, 11% in February and 8.9% in March. Federal revenues totaled 32.1 trillion rubles and spending amounted to 39.7 trillion rubles in the first quarter. The deficit amounted to 7.6 trillion rubles, or 3.3% of the gross domestic product (GDP). To cover the federal budget deficit, non- inflationary measures, such as the issuance of short-term state bonds and technical credits were undertaken in the first quarter. The Finance Ministry said it plans to continue to broaden the secondary financial market. State short-term bonds will be a major instrument in shaping domestic state debt in 1995 and are expected to generate 20 trillion rubles in income. Since January, income gained from short-term bonds amounted to 5.4 trillion rubles. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. WAGE ARREARS PROBLEM REDUCED IN FIRST QUARTER. Russia's industrial, construction, transportation and agricultural enterprises reduced their wage debt in the first quarter, Interfax reported on 30 April. Goskomstat (the State Statistics Committee) said that industrial enterprises, two-thirds of which are machine-building and fuel and energy enterprises, accounted for about 54% of the total debt of 5.687 billion rubles as of 1 April. In the gas sector, the wage debt to the average worker stood at 1.4 million rubles as of 1 April; in the oil sector 900,000 rubles and in the coal industry 700,000 rubles, which equals the average monthly wage in these industries in February 1995. Goskomstat also reported that medical and educational institutions failed to pay 9% and 11%, respectively, of the salaries to its workers in February. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. RUBLE DROPS AGAINST DOLLAR. The Russian ruble lost 16 points against the dollar on 28 April with MICEX trading closing at 5,116 rubles/$1, the Financial Information Agency reported. Initial demand was $123.99 while supply was $88.45 million. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. RYBKIN: AMERICAN AID INADEQUATE. The chairman of the Russian State Duma, Ivan Rybkin, complained on 1 May that the United States has not fully delivered on its promise to give aid to Russia, The New York Times reported 2 May. In talks with U.S. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, Rybkin said Russians are becoming increasingly displeased with the U.S. failure to provide promised aid for housing relocated Russian soldiers and dismantling nuclear submarines. Rybkin suggested that this could lead to more Russians voting for ultranationalists in parliamentary elections. Rybkin did indicate that "an acceptable formula" could be reached on the Russian agreement to provide nuclear aid to Iran, which the Clinton adminstration would like to see halted. According to ITAR- TASS on 2 May, Rybkin also met with Vice President Albert Gore and separately with Secretary of State Warren Christopher and his deputy Strobe Talbott. NATO expansion, the Iranian nuclear deal, the prospects for ratfiying START II, and the Russian law on foreign investment were reportedly discussed. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. KOZYREV REJECTS USE OF FORCE ON BEHALF OF RUSSIANS ABROAD. Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev rejected the use of force and even economic pressure as a means to protect Russian, Russian-speaking and other minorites in the "near abroad" in a 29 April speech in the United States, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. Nevertheless, in a reference to the Helsinki Final Act of 1975, Kozyrev noted that that principle of "non-interference" in the domestic affairs of other states does not apply to the protection of the rights of minorities and said Russia will continue to act to protect the rights of Russians abroad. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA REFERENDUM RESULTS IN KAZAKHSTAN. In a referendum held on 29 April, 95.4% of the ballots cast supported extending the rule of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev until December 2000, Western and Russian media reported. Of 8.9 million registered voters, 91.3% turned out to vote. Nazarbayev, whilst committing himself to a full liberalization course and promising parliamentary elections this year, interpreted the results of the referendum as a decisive "no" to "trouble and tremors in society." He termed talk of his rule being increasingly dictatorial as "baseless and irresponsible." Speaking at a press conference after the referendum, he suggested that key legislation, notably on private land ownership and the status of the Russian language, would also be put to a popular vote. Criticism of the referendum and its results in Kazakhstan have been limited to small groups such as the Kazakh nationalists connected to Azat or Alash or the pro-Slav Lad movement. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. RADIOACTIVE MATERIAL FOUND AT BAKU AIRPORT. A container with 763 kilograms of caesium-137, americium-241 and beryllium sent from Amsterdam in December 1993 but never claimed has been discovered at Baku airport, according to AFP of 29 April quoting the Azerbaijan Procurator- general. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. [As of 1200 CET] Compiled by Pete Baumgartner 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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