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No. 92, Part I, 12 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 THE MYSTERIOUS CASE OF THE CENTRIFUGE CONCESSION. Russian President Boris Yeltsin's "concession" to his U.S. counterpart Bill Clinton on sending gas centrifuges to Iran seems to have been no concession at all, Interfax reported on 11 May. Georgy Kaurov, the spokesman for Russia's Nuclear Energy Ministry, said Russia never intended to supply Iran with the centrifuges. He stressed that no provisions for such equipment had been included in the contracts to complete the Bushehr reactors or in bilateral agreements for cooperation in nuclear power engineering. Russian Nuclear Energy Minister Viktor Mikhailov ruled out revising the nuclear power reactor contract with Iran, but added that the contract for nuclear cooperation would be reviewed by the Gore-Chernomyrdin commission. Moreover, no decision has yet been made on whether nuclear waste from the reactor will be returned to Russia or remain under inspection by the International Atomic Energy Association in Iran. Meanwhile, Mikhail Kokeev, a deputy department head in the Russian Foreign Ministry, said Russia did not, does not, and will not support programs that will bring Iran "to another military level." However, Kokeev did admit that several departments in various Russian ministries had discussed the possibility of supplying "dual-use" technologies to Iran. He said their search for funds is "quite understandable." -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. CLINTON AND YELTSIN AGREEMENT ON FISSILE MATERIALS. At their Moscow summit, President Yeltsin and President Clinton took steps to strictly limit, if not eliminate, the production of new nuclear weapons. In a joint statement published by the White House, they pledged not to make new warheads out of the nuclear material to be removed from dismantled warheads, not to use newly produced fissile materials in nuclear weapons, and not to use fissile materials produced within civilian nuclear programs in nuclear weapons. Plutonium and highly enriched uranium are fissile materials used in weapons manufacture. The two presidents also agreed to quickly conclude broad agreements on exchanging detailed information about each other's nuclear weapons stockpile. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. THE SUMMIT BETWEEN LIMITED SUCCESS AND QUALIFIED FAILURE. The 10 May Clinton-Yeltsin summit was anything from a limited success to a qualified failure, according to international media. Little progress was noted on European security, Chechnya, and the Russian nuclear deal with Iran. On 11 May, Krasnaya Zvezda observed rather blandly that the summit laid out a practical work-plan for the two presidents. The state-owned newspaper Rossiiskaya gazeta was decidedly more upbeat, writing that Clinton and Yeltsin had made the best of a bad situation, and "the Russian and U.S. presidents, contrary to predictions, managed to find ways out of a situation that many people had believed to be an impasse." Georgy Arbatov, honorary director of the Institute of U.S.A. and Canada, noted, however, that no serious progress had been made on the major issues separating Russia and the West, Interfax reported on 11 May. Instead, he said "the public part of the summit shows that both presidents have started their election campaigns," a reference to the fact that presidential elections are scheduled in both countries for next year. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. CLINTON MEETS WITH OPPOSITION LEADERS. President Clinton held formal talks with figures from across the Russian political spectrum at the U.S. ambassador's residence in Moscow, Russian and Western agencies reported on 11 May. Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov warned that Russia faced "Bal-kanization" or "criminalization" if fair and democratic elections were not held, Interfax reported. Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky criticized Yeltsin's economic policy and Russia's "inadequate" democracy. Russia's Choice leader Yegor Gaidar said a growing "tendency of confrontation" in Russia threatened to bring back the Cold War. Other politicians invited to meet with Clinton included Agrarian Party chairman Mikhail Lapshin, Democratic Party of Russia co- chairman Sergei Glazev, "Forward, Russia!" leader Boris Fedorov, and Women of Russia leader Yekaterina Lakhova. Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky was the most prominent opponent of Yeltsin to be excluded from the meeting. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. DUMA OVERRULES FEDERATION COUNCIL ON ELECTORAL LAW. Overruling the objections of the Federation Council, the State Duma passed the law on parliamentary elections by a vote of 302 to 72 with six abstentions, barely reaching the required two-thirds majority, Russian and Western agencies reported on 11 May. The Council and President Yeltsin had advocated electing 300 Duma deputies from single-member constituencies and 150 from party lists, but the Duma upheld its version maintaining the current ratio of 225 deputies chosen by each method. Presidential aide Georgy Satarov told NTV that although Yeltsin disagrees with the final version of the electoral law, he will not veto it, because delaying parliamentary elections would provoke "confrontation" and "instability" that would harm "the reforms, Russians and the whole country's future." -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. VEDENKIN TRIAL POSTPONED UNTIL AFTER BY-ELECTION. The trial of Alexei Vedenkin, who is charged with threatening to commit murder, has been postponed for at least one week due to a backlog of cases facing the court, Radio Rossii reported on 11 May. The delay means that Vedenkin will be allowed to compete in the 14 May by-election for a vacant Duma seat in Kolomna. Even if Vedenkin wins the seat, he may not be protected from prosecution; some have suggested that parliamentary immunity does not apply to crimes committed before being elected. On 22 February during a Russian TV broadcast, Vedenkin threatened to shoot Sergei Kovalev and Sergei Yushenkov, vocal critics of the military campaign in Chechnya. For his part, Vedenkin asked the Kolomna election committee not to permit any "provocation" against his campaign, Ekho Moskvy reported on 11 May. Vedenkin accused the authorities of plotting to plant firearms, narcotics, and forged documents on him in order to arrest him on the day of the by-election. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. CONSTITUTIONAL COURT TURNS DOWN CASE ON CHECHNYA DECREES. The Constitutional Court will not examine the constitutionality of Yeltsin's secret decrees on restoring order in Chechnya for some time due to flaws in the Federation Council's request, according to the 7-14 May edition of Moskovskie novosti. The Council submitted its request to the court as a secret document and failed to include the full text of the decree to be considered. The court refused to hold hearings on secret requests and asked the Council to re-submit its appeal at a later date. Issa Kostoev, chairman of the Committee on Constitutional Legislation, who was in charge of drawing up the request, said his committee attached the presidential edict to the relevant documents and never suggested making the Council's appeal to the court secret. Moskovskie novosti suggested that the appeal was altered and marked classified by the staff of Federation Council Chairman Vladimir Shumeiko in order to delay the case. Shumeiko is also a member of Yeltsin's Security Council and has defended the legality of the military campaign in Chechnya. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. DETERIORATION IN SOCIAL SITUATION. Although Russia's economy has improved in recent months, the social sphere has not recovered from the price hikes caused by "Black Tuesday" last October, according to Izvestiya on 11 May. The paper says the situation has not been this bad since 1992 but then people believed the hardships were only temporary. According to Goskomstat, in March 1995, the average salary was 33% lower in real terms than a year earlier; and in the first quarter of 1995, 30.4% of the population had incomes below the subsistence minimum as opposed to 25.3% in the same period in 1994. Not surprisingly, confidence in the ruble has also declined: the report notes that while the public spent 12.4% of its earnings on foreign currency in March 1994, the figure a year later was 15.2%. Employees in the health care, education, and scientific research sectors are the worst off. While acknowledging that this is not new, the paper says their situation has deteriorated significantly in recent months and that the average salaries in those sectors has dropped below the subsistence minimum. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. CONVENTIONAL WEAPONS TREA-TY STILL A PROBLEM. While President Clinton expressed sympathy for Russia's complaints regarding the so-called "flanks" limits of the CFE treaty, he also stressed that the U.S. expects Russia to comply with the treaty until it can be revised, possibly at a conference in May 1996. A "high-ranking Russian diplomat" told Interfax on 11 May that Russia would not be able to implement the flank limits when they became effective in November of this year. He argued that the situation in the Northern Caucasus--and particularly Chechnya--required Russia to station larger amounts of conventional weapons in the region than the treaty allowed. "The Chechen problem will hardly be settled by the time the CFE treaty comes into effect," he said. Meanwhile, the military newspaper Krasnaya zvezda questioned why Yeltsin had not linked NATO concessions on CFE to the discussions over the eastward expansion of the alliance. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. SIX BANKS TO PARTICIPATE IN FINANCIAL INSTITUTION DEVELOPMENT. Six leading commercial banks in Russia, Tokobank, Mos-biznesbank, Promstroibank (St. Petersburg), the St. Petersburg Bank, the Stolichny Savings Bank, and Uralpromstroibank, will participate in a program to develop the country's financial institutions under the auspices of the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), Interfax reported on 10 May. The banks were selected on the basis of economic criteria, which included substantial capital holdings, profitable returns, normal liquidity, active credit policies, and private sector servicing. A Russian Finance Ministry spokesman told Interfax that the banks, which will be agents of the World Bank and EBRD, will eventually be eligible for credit lines of up to $300 million. The credit lines will be granted by international financial institutions to support medium-term and long-term programs being carried out by private enterprises in Russia. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. YELTSIN PLACES NATIONALLY OWNED SHARES ON STOCK MARKET. President Yeltsin signed a decree on 11 May authorizing the sale of state shares in Russian companies on financial markets, AFP reported. Presidential economic adviser Alexander Livshits said the decree launches the "capitalist" stage of the privatization of semi-public companies and stipulates measures to ensure that the required revenue from privatization is realized. The decree, however, does not address companies of "strategic importance to national security". The government has one month to establish a list of such strategically important companies. The initial sale price of shares, which will be sold in stages, must not be less than a figure due to be set by a government commission. The decree also requires that a state committee for state assets establish arrangements for the sale of some of the shares on international stock markets. Under the new law, the worth of the land on which a company is located has been reduced to 5% of previously calculated values to encourage investment in the stock. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA & CENTRAL ASIA UZBEK MINISTERS, OPPOSITION TO TALK? Moscow is to be the venue for talks between Uzbek ministers and opposition leaders later this month, Segodnya reported on 11 May. The initiative for the talks came from the Uzbek government, which will be represented by a delegation consisting of Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov and Justice Minister Alisher Mardiyev. It is unclear if Abdurrahim Pulatov, chairman of the opposition movement Birlik, and Erk leader Mohammed Saleh have agreed to participate in the talks, since both men are currently living in exile and their participation could result in their being forcibly returned to Uzbekistan as state criminals. Earlier talks held in Washington in late January failed to achieve any breakthroughs. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. TAJIKS TO TALK IN KABUL. Tajik President Emomali Rakhmonov and opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri will hold talks on 15 May in Kabul, Russian and Western agencies reported on 11 May. The bilateral talks will focus on setting the agenda for the fourth round of inter-Tajik talks, which will be held in Almaty later in the month, and on the continuing violation of a recently extended ceasefire on the Tajik- Afghan border. Meanwhile, a former border guards commander in the Caucasus, Lt.-Gen. Pavel Tarasenko, has been appointed to head the Russian-led contingent of border guards in Tajikistan, Reuters reported on 11 May. -- 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. 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