|In general, mankind, since the improvement of cookery, eats twice as much as nature requires. - Ben Franklin|
No. 89, Part I, 9 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 RUSSIA BEGINS WWII CEREMONIES. President Boris Yeltsin praised the WWII alliance as a model for international unity at the beginning of a military parade of veterans and soldiers 9 May, Russian and Western agencies reported. His speech differed from Soviet-era commemorations by highlighting the role of Russia's allies in the war effort. U.S. President Bill Clinton, British Prime Minister John Major, and Chinese President Jiang Zemin along with more than 50 world leaders joined him on top of the Lenin Mausoleum. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, Defense Minister Pavel Grachev, and Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov flanked Yeltsin in his first appearance on the mausoleum as president. The word Lenin was covered by decorations. Clinton only agreed to attend the ceremonies if there would be no military hardware or veterans from the Chechen fighting. However, Segodnya reported that at least two units from Chechnya would participate in the parade. A Defense Ministry spokesman told AFP that no complete units from the Chechen campaign participated, but "it can not be excluded that there may have been some officers." On 8 May, in a Kremlin speech, Yeltsin blamed unnamed groups for fanning fascism in the country, especially among the younger generation, and vowed to rid Russia of "the infection." -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. YELTSIN WARNS AGAINST ISOLATING RUSSIA. President Yeltsin said the West should not isolate Russia but should instead support new models of European and global security based on trust and equal cooperation instead of political confrontation, international agencies reported on 8 May. Speaking at a reception in the Kremlin on 8 May, Yeltsin said the lessons of the 20th century teach that "discrimination and isolation within blocs sooner or later exploded into wars or pushed us to the brink of a nuclear abyss." Although Yeltsin gave no specifics about his plans for future security structures, the OSCE is conducting a Russian- sponsored study of new security models for the 21st century. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. RYBKIN, LAPSHIN AT ODDS ON AGRARIAN PARTICIPATION IN ELECTORAL BLOC. Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin, a prominent member of the Agrarian Party, said the party's leaders had agreed in principle to cooperate with a wide range of political forces, Russian agencies reported on 5 May. Rybkin named the Federation of Independent Trade Unions, the Union of Realists, and the Russian United Industrial Party as possible members of an Agrarian-led bloc. However, on the same day Rybkin missed a scheduled meeting with the Agrarian Party council, after which party chairman Mikhail Lapshin announced that the Agrarians would abide by an earlier decision to form an independent bloc only with other peasants' organizations, NTV reported. Lapshin, who has been campaigning in the regions, said he is puzzled that Rybkin is planning "to rely on purely Moscow political groups" for his bloc, Interfax reported. He added that Rybkin's place on the Agrarian Party list would be determined only after he "clarified" his position on electoral blocs. Rybkin missed a second planned meeting with Agrarian leaders on 8 May, according to Ekho Moskvy. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. RYBKIN DENIES IZVESTIYA'S ALLEGATIONS. Meanwhile, Rybkin denied allegations published on 5 May in Izvestiya, Russian agencies reported. Izvestiya charged that before returning from Washington on 3 May, Rybkin removed boxes of humanitarian aid for Russian children from his plane in order to make room for furniture he bought in the U.S. for his personal use. Rybkin's press secretary, Dmitry Biryukov, said cargo loaded onto the plane was furniture from the Russian embassy and not meant for Rybkin's personal use, Radio Rossii reported. Biryukov added that Rybkin's visit was paid for by the U.S.-Russian Business Council, not by Russian taxpayers, Interfax reported. Furthermore, Biryukov said, Rybkin could not accept the humanitarian aid, since the Duma had not requested him to do so. Nevertheless, on 6 May, the Duma Committee on International Affairs rejected Rybkin's explanation, expressing regret that for the first time, the Duma had been denied assistance in transporting humanitarian aid to Russia. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. CRIMINAL PROCEEDINGS AGAINST MAVRODI SUSPENDED. The criminal case against MMM investment fund chief Sergei Mavrodi has been closed due to the Duma's decision not to strip Mavrodi of his parliamentary immunity, Russian agencies reported on 5 May. Acting Prosecutor General Alexei Ilyushenko extended the investigation into MMM seven times before it was closed, Interfax reported. However, Moscow police have already filed another criminal case against Mavrodi in connection with MMM. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. DRAFT PROGRAM TO AID DEPRESSED REGIONS. The presidential administration's analytical department is drafting a program to aid the country's most depressed areas, Presidential Council member Leonid Smirnyagin told Interfax on 7 May. On the basis of per capita income, falls in industrial output since 1991, and unemployment levels, the program will determine the republics, regions, and districts within those areas that are eligible for special assistance. Due to financial contraints, a maximum of only 26 regions, with a total population of about 20 million, can hope to receive aid. Those will probably include Ivanovo and Pskov Oblasts, Adygeya, Dagestan, Mordovia, and Chuvashia. If too many regions fall into the depressed category, a competition will be held and those presenting the best plans to increase living standards will receive federal funds. Smirnyagin said the program may be adopted by presidential decree and be included in the 1996 budget. It will cost an estimated 20 trillion rubles. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. LATE START HAMPERS KOMI OIL SPILL CLEAN-UP. Environmentalists in Usinsk, the site of a massive oil pipeline leak last year, said oil released as ice and snow melts is causing considerable damage to the fragile environment. The president of the U.S. company Hartec, which is spearheading the clean-up operation along with an Australian company, says teams are working around the clock to try to contain the oil in areas already contaminated, but he criticized the Russian government's delay in seeking financial help. If funding had been secured earlier, he said, cleanup workers would not have been caught out by the early thaw, Reuters reported on 8 May. Meanwhile, Segodnya on 6 May expressed the fear that not all the money lent by the World Bank to fund the operation would be used for the purpose intended. "Our economic managers," the paper commented, "are too much in the 'Soviet' habit of using 'crisis money' to fill all their gaps." -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. GOSKOMSTAT ON AVERAGE WAGE. The average monthly wage in March was 361,500 rubles (about $71), 13% higher than in February, Ekho Moskvy reported on 5 May. According to the State Statistics Committee, the highest wage--1.47 million rubles (about $286)--was paid in the gas industry, and the lowest--147,000 rubles (about $29)--in agriculture. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. MOVEMENT ON IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL. Russia seems to be altering its position on supplying nuclear aid to Iran, international agencies reported on 8 May. Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev said Russia will seriously address any evidence which suggests the Iran deal presents a real danger to nuclear nonproliferation, American television reported. A high-ranking Foreign Ministry official told Interfax on 6 May that U.S. concerns, along with those of "other partners," had convinced Russia to drop plans to train specialists in nuclear power engineering for Iran. However, the chairman of Federal Nuclear and Radiation Safety Inspection, Yury Vishnevsky, confirmed reports that the Nuclear Energy Ministry intended to supply gas centrifuges for enriching uranium to Iran, although no contract has yet been signed. Vishnevsky opposes the deal, not only because it would allow Iran to produce weapons grade fissionable material, but also because Iran is virtually insolvent and unlikely to pay the $800 million promised in the contract to complete the Bushehr reactors. Meanwhile, Interfax reported on 5 May that the Russian Nuclear Agency intends to sign a contract to supply an additional three nuclear power plants to Iran in a deal worth about $2 billion. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIAN ARMED FORCES NEARLY 2 MILLION STRONG. The "full strength" of the Russian armed forces stands at 1,917,000 troops, Grachev told Interfax on 6 May. It is not clear if the defense minister was referring to the authorized strength or the actual number of personnel under arms. President Boris Yeltsin has decreed that the armed forces be reduced to 1.7 million troops by the end of this year, while the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies estimated they were near that level in June of last year. Grachev said most units have been manned at only 60% but the latest changes in conscription legislation will enable the military to raise that to 80-85%. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. CABINET CONSIDERS IMPORT TARIFF OF UP TO 30%. A new draft import tariff was submitted to the Russian government for approval, according to Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Davydov, Segodnya reported on 6 May. The draft increases the average import tariff rate from 11% to 12-13%. On 5 May, Davydov met with representatives of the World Trade Organization in Moscow and noted that the document calls for a maximum duty rate of 30%, except for higher duties on alcoholic beverages, tobacco, and luxury goods. Import duty rates on all other commodities will range for nothing to 30%. Tariffs will not be levied on commodities and raw materials that do not exist in Russia, Davydov said. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. RUBLE GAINS FIVE POINTS AGAINST DOLLAR. Following nearly a week of stabilization, the Russian ruble gained five points against the U.S. dollar on MICEX trading, closing at 5,125 rubles to $1 on 5 May, the Financial Information Agency reported. The initial supply was $108.95 million, exceeding demand by $44.68 million. The last time the ruble gained against the dollar was on 20 April when it increased 15 points in three days, from 5,066 to 5,051 rubles to $1. Currency dealers said the Central Bank purchased $33.36 million on 5 May. The dealers attributed the stabilization and the strengthening of the ruble to the fact that the price of the dollar on the exchange was in excess of the off- exchange quotations which caused a large inflow of dollars in MICEX trading. Additionally, commercial banks have been selling dollars to obtain rubles for their mandatory reserves in the Central Bank. Financial Information Agency experts attributed the ruble gains to a change in bank policy. Two months ago, the bank, which is the largest dealer in currency trading, worked to keep the exchange rate at pace with the inflation rate, but now it seems to be attempting to stabilize the ruble in order to reduce inflationary expectations. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA KARIMOV ON TURKESTAN . . . Uzbek President Islam Karimov called for the unification of all post-Soviet Central Asian states on 5 May, Interfax reported the same day. In a speech to parliament, he noted that the republics of the region live in fear of being deprived of their independence. "Turkestan must become a common home . . . If all five states of the region pool their efforts in this vast expanse, the threat from the outside will disappear by itself, as will the 'elder brother' notion, which oppresses and alarms everybody," he said. Karimov has used the theme of Central Asian unification or Turkestan in the past, largely for domestic purposes; its current use appears to be for external consumption, part of a strategy to block Russian assertiveness in Central Asia and curry Western favor for doing so. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. .. . . UZBEK PARLIAMENT ON KARIMOV. Informing parliament of the results of the March referendum on extending his term in office, Karimov asked legislators to consider the prolongation of his rule to the year 2000 to be his second term in office, which they rejected. The Uzbek Constitution does not permit one individual to hold more than two terms in office in a row; hence Karimov will be eligible for re-election in the year 2000. -- Lowell Bezanis, 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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