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No. 93, Part I, 15 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 HOLDS FOUNDING CONGRESS. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin was unanimously chosen to lead the center-right electoral bloc, Our Home Is Russia, at the movement's founding congress, Russian agencies reported on 12 May. First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets and Samar Oblast Governor Konstantin Titov will be Chernomyrdin's deputies, and Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Shakhrai and Tatarstan Prime Minister Farid Mukhamedshin will be among the bloc's 125 board members, Ekho Moskvy reported. Chernomyrdin stressed that "stability" would be the movement's "key word," Russian TV reported. Responding to charges that his new electoral ambitions do not befit a prime minister, Chernomyrdin challenged his critics to "name one democratic country where the executive branch is apolitical and non-party, and its representatives show no interest in parliamentary elections," Russian Public Television reported. Shakhrai promised that budgetary funds would not be used to finance Our Home Is Russia, which will rely on contributions from "large enterprises and firms," according to Russian Television. Business leaders, including the director of the Avtovaz corporation and the president of the Association of Russian Banks, also attended the congress, NTV reported. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. MORE REACTION TO CHERNOMYRDIN BLOC. Many politicians have continued to denounce Chernomyrdin's bloc as the "party of power." Duma Press and Information Committee Chairman Mikhail Poltoranin predicted that the bloc would not have a "happy fate," saying it is doomed to become the president's "whipping boy," Russian Public Television reported on 13 May. Commenting on Chernomyrdin's nomenklatura connections dating back to his days running the Soviet gas industry, "Forward, Russia!" leader Boris Fedorov suggested that a more fitting name for the new bloc would be "Our Home Is Gazprom." However, St. Petersburg Mayor Anatoly Sobchak, a consistent supporter of Yeltsin, called on "all reformist, democratic, healthy forces in society" to support Chernomyrdin's bloc, Radio Rossii reported. Sobchak said Russia needs strong parties that can draw up intelligent programs and take responsibility for implementing them. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. KOLOMNA HOLDS DUMA BY-ELECTION. The cosmonaut German Titov, representing the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, was the front-runner in voting to fill the Duma seat in Kolomna left empty after the assassination of Liberal Democratic Party deputy Sergei Skorochkin, Ekho Moskvy reported on 15 May. Approximately 36% of the eligible voters participated, well above the 25% barrier for the elections to be valid. A survey of polling stations along Kolomna's main street found that precincts with heavy concentrations of military families were the most active. According to statistics gathered by the city's administration, the rural areas were more active than Kolomna itself. Alexei Vedenkin was in the city for the elections and lodged a protest with the police against Yelena Mavrodi for distributing anonymous flyers that criticized him. Vedenkin's flyers were available at the central train station. They praised Josef Stalin, denounced international Zionism and the U.S. as Russia's greatest external enemies, and stressed the need for Orthodox Christians and Muslims to unite against Jews to protect Russia's interests. According to local officials, the State Duma was carefully monitoring the elections because they could foreshadow how medium-sized Russian cities with ethnically mixed populations will vote in December's nationwide parliamentary elections. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. LEBED SAYS HE WILL NOT RESIGN. Contradicting previous statements indicating his departure from the armed forces was imminent, 14th Army Commander Lt. Gen. Alexander Lebed announced that he has no plans to resign, Russian agencies reported on 12 May. According to NTV, Lebed opened his press conference by saying, "It's difficult to swim in hydrochloric acid with your legs cut off. It's no less difficult to serve in the army." However, Lebed said he felt responsible for keeping the peace in the breakaway Transdniester region of Moldova and would not leave before a political resolution of the conflict was achieved, Russian Public Television reported. In the past, Lebed has said Defense Minister Pavel Grachev's order to restructure the 14th Army left him "no choice" but to resign, and Lebed's participation in the April conference of the Congress of Russian Communities led to widespread speculation that he would soon devote his full attention to politics. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. URALS LEADER ROSSEL BESTS MOSCOW. President Yeltsin signed a decree on 11 May allowing, "by way of exception," the residents of Sverdlovsk Oblast to elect their governor, Segodnya reported the following day. The campaign to hold elections was spearheaded by Eduard Rossel, chairman of the Oblast Duma, and a favorite to win the governorship. The oblast is the first to win the right to hold gubernatorial elections since a presidential decree last fall banned them without Moscow's explicit approval. According to Kommersant-daily of 13 May, Rossel's backers included Constitutional Court Chairman Vladimir Tumanov, Federation Council Speaker Vladimir Shumeiko, and Yeltsin's aide for legal issues, Mikhail Krasnov. Rossel said that if elected, he would strive to coordinate the economic policies of Urals republics and regions but would not resume efforts to establish a Urals republic. Rossel was removed from the post of Sverdlovsk Oblast governor in November 1993 for attempting to set up such a republic. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. CHARGES DROPPED IN MOST GROUP CASE. The Main Military Prosecutor's Office has dropped its case against members of the Presidential Security Service who were charged with exceeding their powers in a raid on the headquarters of the Most financial group on 2 December 1994, Moskovsky komsomolets reported on 13 May. The charges were brought by the Krasnaya Presnya prosecutor immediately after the raid, in which masked members of the presidential guard clashed with Most security guards and Federal Counterintelligence Service officers. The Most Group, which is headed by Vladimir Gusinsky, has interests in various companies, including NTV. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. FOREIGN MINISTRY VIEWS ON CLINTON'S CFE STANCE. A senior Russian Foreign Ministry official asserted on 12 May that U.S. President Bill Clinton shares NATO's "tough view" against the CFE treaty's revision and will not meet Russia's request to revise its flank restrictions, Interfax reported the same day. Nevertheless, the official said Clinton agreed that the treaty had been overtaken by events and should be addressed at the Vienna review conference in May 1996. Although Russia is dissatisfied with the CFE flank restrictions, the official stressed that "Russia can hardly be expected to withdraw from the CFE treaty." He said such views expressed by the Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev reflect only those of his ministry and not those of the government as a whole. Instead, the official said the treaty "meets Russian interests because it imposes similar restrictions on NATO." He expressed the hope that further consultations between Russia and the U.S. on the matter would take place after Clinton returns from his European trip. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. IRAN DEAL NOW ONLY WORTH $500 MILLION. Stripped of its military elements, the Russia nuclear cooperation deal with Iran is now worth half its original $1 billion price tag, Segodnya and Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 12 May. Segodnya cited Yury Vorontsev, the Russian ambassador to Washington, as the source of the assessment. According to Nezavisimaya gazeta, the Russian leadership's statements that the Iran nuclear deal has no military component are a reflection of their basic ignorance in the matter. The paper advocates an investigation into why the public learned about the military aspect of the deal from American and not domestic sources. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. FOREIGN CURRENCY CASH INFLOW DECREASING. The volume of cash foreign currency brought into Russia by banks and individuals is steadily decreasing, a Central Bank of Russia official was quoted as saying in Finansovye Izvestiya on 11 May. In February, foreign cash worth about $860 million was brought into Russia, compared to the January figure of $2.6 billion. During the past year, more than $21.7 billion in cash was brought into the country. The bank official attributed the downward trend in the currency influx to the strengthening ruble. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. DUMA ADOPTS DEBT RESTRUCTURING LAW. The Duma adopted a law requiring that both houses of parliament ratify all international agreements concerning foreign debt restructuring on state credits, Interfax reported on 11 May. Konstantin Zatulin, chairman of the Duma Committee for CIS Affairs, said foreign countries and former Soviet republics owe Russia about $80 billion. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. ONE BILLION DOLLAR LOAN BACKED BY OIL. The Russian government approved a plan to take out a $1 billion loan which will be backed by export guarantees of 25 million tons of crude oil after five years, Russian and Western agencies reported on 12 May. Balkar Trading, a Russian-British trading company, will arrange the loan in return for government guarantees of access to export pipelines. It will purchase the oil on the Russian market and sell it on the world markets through Mobil Corporation. Mobil is expected to raise funds for the loan by selling debt securities on world markets. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. RUBLE RISES AGAINST DOLLAR. The Russian ruble rose by 18 points to 5,088 to $1 on 12 May MICEX trading, the Financial Information Agency reported. Initial supply exceeded initial demand by $63.47 million totaling $214.98 million. Brokers attributed the dollar's slide to the decline of quotations on the off exchange market, making it more profitable for banks to sell currency at MICEX. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. GOVERNMENT TO FINANCE DEFICIT FROM 'NON-INFLATION" SOURCES. The Russian government will finance the 1995 budget deficit (73.1 trillion rubles) from "non-inflation" sources, Finance Minister Vladimir Panskov told the Financial Information Agency on 12 May. Panskov said government securities will remain the primary source of financing the budget deficit; however, the Finance Ministry still has to artificially restrict the placement of short-term government bonds in the financial market because it is not profitable to attract money from commercial structures for three to six months. Panskov said that when inflation falls to 2-3% in the third and fourth quarter, long-term bonds will be issued on a mass scale. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. CIS PROTECTION FOR CIS CITIZENS AND POWS IN DOMESTIC CONFLICTS. The CIS Inter-Parliamentary Assembly recommended on 13 May that member countries adopt legislation protecting the rights of citizens and prisoners of war in armed conflicts, Interfax reported the next day. Azerbaijan made the proposal that would apply "if a country becomes a party to an inter- state conflict (war) or if a domestic conflict emerges on the country's territory between two or more parties, even if one of these parties does not recognize the existence of such a conflict." The proposal includes prohibitions against the deportation, hostage-taking, and violence against the lives and well-being of citizens. The rights of prisoners of war will be protected in accordance with international law. Countries involved in conflicts will be required to appoint a "state-protector" to insure the impartial application of the proposal. If such an official is not appointed within two weeks, the Red Cross International Committee will assume the function. Russian Federation Council Vladimir Shumeiko, who also chairs the CIS Inter-Parliamentary Assembly Council, said the proposal would apply to all current conflicts in the CIS, including the one in Chechnya. -- 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. 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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