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No. 87, Part I, 4 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 GRYZUNOV CALLS FOR NEW STATE-PRESS RELATIONS . . . At a seminar held to mark International Freedom of the Press Day, State Press Committee Chairman Sergei Gryzunov proposed the creation of a national council on the mass media, Interfax reported on 3 May. Gryzunov said the council would coordinate state policy toward the mass media and help determine the level of investment in the media. Gryzunov also advocated consolidating the efforts of some presses and publishing houses. He estimated that more efficient publishing concerns could cut the costs of publishing a newspaper by 40% to 60%, thereby making the media truly independent. Gryzunov said that out of nearly 9,000 registered publications in Russia, only about 13% currently could survive without subsidies. He added that the State Press Committee had asked the government to maintain press subsidies until a new law on tax privileges for the media comes into effect, since canceling subsidies could make the media "a hostage to the political ambitions of the institutions financing it." -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. .. . . WHILE RESTRICTIONS ON PRESS FREEDOM ARE DENOUNCED. At the same seminar, Foundation for the Protection of Glasnost chairman Alexei Simonov charged that since the beginning of the military conflict in Chechnya, the authorities have repeatedly violated the freedom of the press in Russia, Ekho Moskvy reported on 3 May. Simonov noted that in the last four months, 166 Russian journalists have been "victimized" in Chechnya. Among those, Simonov added, 105 were arrested, 46 had film, videocassettes, or video-recording equipment illegally confiscated, eight were beaten up, six were killed, and two are still missing. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. CONSTITUTIONAL COURT STRIKES DOWN ARTICLE OF CRIMINAL CODE. The Constitutional Court has ruled that Article 220 of the Criminal Code, which restricts the legal right to contest arrests, violates the constitution, Ekho Moskvy reported on 3 May. Under Article 220, only persons actually in custody are granted the right to challenge their arrests. In upholding a private appeal, the court ruled that those who have been held in preliminary detention may legally contest the decision to arrest them even after their release. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. UNIONS, INDUSTRIALISTS INTEND TO CREATE POLITICAL BLOC. The leader of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions, Mikhail Shmakov, the head of the Russian United Industrialists' Party, Vladimir Scherbakov, and the leader of the Realists' Union, Yury Petrov, signed an agreement on 3 May stating their intent to create a single election bloc for the 1995 parliamentary elections, Interfax reported. To coordinate their campaign efforts, the unions will create an organization called Russia's Unions and the industrialists will create Russian Industry's Revival and both will work with the Realists. Earlier those groups were included in the list of potential members of State Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin's new left- center electoral bloc. Rybkin, who returned to Moscow on 3 May from a trip to Japan and the U.S., has been ambiguous on whether he will actually lead the new bloc and it is unclear how this new agreement fits into his overall plans. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. SOBCHAK TO SEEK RE-ELECTION IN 1996. St. Petersburg Mayor Anatoly Sobchak formally announced that he will seek re-election in June 1996, Sankt-Peterburgskie vedomosti reported on 21 April. He said he would count on the support of "normal democratic forces which can distinguish democracy from demagoguery." -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. GOVERNMENT COMMISSION BLAMES ENERGY COMPLEX FOR PRIMORE MINERS' STRIKE. At a closed meeting on 3 May, the government commission on non-payments discussed the problems facing the coal industry in the Far East, Russian TV reported. The commission, chaired by First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais, sharply criticized the energy complex for spending money allocated by the federal authorities for miners' wages on other purposes. Nonpayment of wages was the main reason for a week-long strike by miners in Primorsky Krai in early April. Chubais' commission debated firing the general director of Dalenergo and reprimanding other energy chiefs. It also criticized the performance of the krai administration during the strike and said the local authorities' decision to purchase coal from Australia and China is being investigated by law enforcement bodies. Chubais earlier accused krai Governor Yevgeny Nazdratenko of deliberately aggravating tensions and playing "political games." The commission may now ask the Prosecutor's Office to bring charges against members of the administration. Meanwhile, Finansovie izvestiya reported on 4 May that the number of workers in Russia's coal industry fell by about 80,000 in 1994. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. DEPUTY PROSECUTOR GENERAL ON CRIME, LISTEV MURDER. In an interview with Chelovek i zakon (no. 4), Deputy Prosecutor General Oleg Gaidanov argued that those responsible for the murder of TV star Vladislav Listev on 1 March had issued a challenge to society as a whole. He said criminal groups are trying to use their ill-gotten gains to enter politics and dictate their own rules of the game. Concerning the Listev case in particular, he said the prosecution had documents proving that criminal capital controlled by Moscow groups had deeply penetrated the mass media, especially television, and he believes only people sure of their immunity and ability to influence the investigation would run the risk of murdering such a well-known figure. "They are certain that their money will solve all potential problems," he said. Gaidanov also spoke out against giving ordinary people the right to carry guns and said the armed security services of commercial companies pose a threat to society. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. U.S. STEPS UP PRESSURE AGAINST RUSSIA NUCLEAR DEAL WITH IRAN. The U.S. has stepped up its pressure against the Russian nuclear deal with Iran, international agencies reported on 3 May. A senior U.S. official said Russia will supply uranium enrichment technology as well as light-water reactors to Iran. The official indicated that the U.S. has learned of Russia's agreement to provide gas centrifuges to Iran, which would allow it to enrich uranium to weapons grade levels. He suggested that Russia has not been totally forthcoming on its arrangements with Iran. Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev said the U.S. has exaggerated the threat to non-proliferation posed by Iran, citing the plan to provide light-water reactors to North Korea, Reuters reported on 2 May. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. FEDERAL BUDGET RECEIVES MORE REVENUES THAN ANTICIPATED . . . For the first time in the last four years, the Russian federal budget received 3.3% more revenues in the first quarter than planned, the Russian Finance Ministry and Central Bank announced to Russian news agencies on 3 May. The size of foreign-debt payment exceeded foreign borrowings 1.9 times. First quarter revenues stand at 32.1 trillion rubles ($6.3 billion) with expenditures at 39.7 trillion rubles ($7.7 billion). The budget deficit, which is expected to be 5% of the GDP in 1995, was 7.6 trillion rubles ($1.5 billion) or 3.3% of GDP in the first quarter. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. .. . . AND ECONOMY ON THE UPSWING. The ministry and bank also announced that positive economic tendencies have contributed to the successful first quarter federal budget results. Inflation is continuing to decrease as the cumulative consumer price index, which was at 17.8% in January, is expected to be about 8% for April. The ministry and bank noted that industrial output declined by only 4.5%, compared to 23% in the first quarter of 1994. According to the announcement, the state had no debts in terms of wages and scholarships, financing national defense, law enforcement, state power structures, education, health care, culture, and social security. The two state bodies added that financing for the Chechen conflict came from budget assignments granted to the respective ministries involved in the fighting and did not exceed the fixed budget expenses for 1995. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. GOVERNMENT LIKELY TO ACCEPT BANK CONSORTIUM OFFER. The Russian government is likely to accept the offer made by a consortium of commercial banks which would grant credit with the stock of factories to be privatized as collateral, presidential economic adviser Alexander Livshits told Russian news agencies on 3 May. "This is the first time since reforms began in this country that Russia's largest banks have expressed their willingness to grant long-term loans," Livshits said on Russian TV. He declined to say which banks are engaged in talks with First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. GOVERNMENT SECURITIES COMMISSION VOTES TO ACCELERATE SECURITIES ISSUANCE. The Russian government's commission on improving the system for payments and settlements passed a decision on 3 May to accelerate the issuance of government securities which are intended to cover over 40% of the country's budget deficit, Interfax reported. The commission said a government resolution on the terms for issuing securities should be signed within days. Afterwards, the Finance Ministry will begin launching securities into circulation. Thirty-two trillion rubles ($6.2 billion) worth of securities are to be issued in 1995. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA NATIONAL CURRENCY FOR TAJIKISTAN. Speaking in Dushanbe on 3 May, Tajik President Emomali Rakhmonov announced the planned introduction of a national currency in Tajikistan later this month, Interfax reported the same day. The new currency has been printed in Russia and is expected to be put into circulation after 10 May. Rakhmonov said the measure is aimed at raising the population's living standards--the state owes some 400 billion rubles to workers at present. However, it is likely the decision was forced upon the Tajik leadership by Russia. Noting that "there will be no famine in Tajikistan," Rakhmonov also indicated that 100,000 metric tons of grain from Russia would be delivered to the republic this month and stressed that consideration is being given to promoting greater integration with that country. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. UZBEKISTAN AND THE IMF. The second tranche of a $74 million IMF credit made available to Uzbekistan in January for its macroeconomic stabilization program is to be released, Interfax reported on 3 May. During a meeting with Uzbek President Islam Karimov in Tashkent, IMF managing director Michel Camdessus indicated Uzbekistan had met the IMF's requirements, though he registered displeasure over the slow pace of reform and relatively high inflation rate--7.8%--in March. He also told Karimov Uzbekistan may receive a $287 million credit in 1995-1997. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. CIS 33 JOURNALISTS KILLED IN CIS SINCE 1994. Thirty-three journalists have been killed in the CIS since the beginning of 1994, many of them in areas of ongoing regional hostilities, the Foundation for the Protection of Glasnost told AFP on 3 May. Three Russians, one American, and one German have died in Chechnya, and six journalists have died in Tajikistan. Fourteen have died in Russia, including the famous cases of Vladislav Listev, the former head of Ostankino, and Dmitry Kholodov, the Moskovsky Komsomolets reporter who had been investigating charges of army corruption. In other CIS countries, three have died in Georgia, two in Belarus, and one each in Armenia and Kyrgyzstan. The French organization Reporters sans frontieres reported that 103 journalists were killed around the world in 1994--the highest number on record for one year. -- Michael Mihalka, 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. 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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