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No. 94, Part I, 16 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 COMMUNIST WINS KOLOMNA BY-ELECTION. Cosmonaut Col. Gen. German Titov won the State Duma seat in the Moscow region's 107th Kolomna constituency, Russian and Western agencies reported on 15 May. In a crowded field of eleven candidates, Titov won the by-election with just 44,000 votes, or 8.5% of the ballots cast. Factory director Mikhail Guberman received about 38,000 votes (7.3%), and former model Yelena Mavrodi, wife of the MMM investment fund chief Sergei Mavrodi, won 26,500 votes (5.1%). Lt. Col. Stanislav Terekhov, leader of the military dissident group Officers' Union, came in fourth with some 23,000 votes (4.4%). Ultra- nationalist Alexei Vedenkin was far behind the leaders. On 16 May, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported that the Kolomna results confirmed the Communist Party's position as the favorite before nationwide parliamentary elections in December. The Kolomna seat was previously held by Liberal Democratic Party deputy Sergei Skorochkin, who was murdered in February. -- Laura Belin and Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. YAVLINSKY: NO ALLIANCE WITH RUSSIA'S CHOICE. Shattering rumors that he had agreed to cooperate with Yegor Gaidar, Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky announced, "There will be no parliamentary electoral bloc between Yabloko and Russia's Choice under any circumstances," Ekho Moskvy reported on 15 May. On 14 May, in a joint live appearance with Gaidar on NTV, Yavlinsky had suggested forming a partnership of democratic forces for parliamentary and presidential elections. Gaidar welcomed Yavlinsky's proposal as "sensible and constructive" and said his party would discuss a possible electoral alliance with Yabloko. However, the next day Yavlinsky ruled out a united democratic front, noting "essential differences" between his party and Russia's Choice. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. CHUBAIS SUSPENDS MEMBERSHIP IN TWO PARTIES. Declaring his intention to concentrate on economic issues instead of campaign activities, First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais suspended his membership in the Russia's Democratic Choice party and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's bloc Our Home Is Russia until the December parliamentary elections, Interfax reported on 15 May. The move resolves a dilemma for Chubais, who was caught between the "party of the idea" and the "party of power," Izvestiya suggested on 16 May. Chubais has long been one of the leading figures of Russia's Democratic Choice, along with Yegor Gaidar, but on 29 April, as a high-ranking cabinet member, he was named to the steering committee of Chernomyrdin's bloc. On 10 May, Gaidar announced that his party would not join Our Home Is Russia and would consider the question of Chubais' simultaneous participation in both parties. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. AEROFLOT PILOTS WORK TO RULE. The Sheremetevo pilots' union called on its members to work to rule for a week beginning 15 May, but airline officials say flights are operating normally, Russian and Western agencies reported. An Aeroflot official said "more than 90% of scheduled international flights from Moscow left according to schedule on Monday. We had only five flights delayed for several minutes because of technical problems," Reuters reported. Kuranty (no. 87) speculated that the central aim of the action was to demonstrate to the company's general director that the union is still a powerful force. The latter has staged a number of protests in recent months to demand changes in Aeroflot's privatization plan. Two strikes announced last month were called off at the last minute, but Aeroflot is suing the union for damages in lost ticket sales. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. "PEOPLE'S POWER" BLOC SET UP IN KUZBASS. Aman Tuleev, a Federation Council deputy and chairman of the Kemerovo Oblast legislative assembly, has set up an electoral bloc uniting various communist, agrarian, and trade union groups in the Kuzbass, Sovetskaya Rossiya reported on 16 May. In an interview with the paper, Tuleev said his aim is to combat "the party of power" and the threat of a "powerful dictatorship of the executive over the legislative branch." He wants to change the "anti- popular" course of reform and restore the Soviets. Tuleev claims that funds from the state budget will be used to support the campaign of the Kemerovo Oblast administration. He says he has been refused permission to speak on live television. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. YUSHENKOV CALLS FOR RUSSIAN ASSOCIATE NATO MEMBERSHIP. Sergei Yushenkov, chairman of the State Duma Defense Committee, suggested on 15 May that Russia should be given associate membership in NATO. Interfax quoted him as saying such a relationship "would contribute to the formation of a new security system in the framework of OSCE on the basis of existing NATO structures." The treaty does not provide for associate membership and NATO governments have always rejected such proposals. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. OSCE CONVOY FIRED ON IN CHECHNYA; CUNY'S BODY BELIEVED FOUND. Individuals from the OSCE permanent mission in Chechnya seeking the whereabouts of Fred Cuny, a former adviser to the Open Society Institute who has been missing since April, came under fire from Russian units on 13 May, Hungarian Radio reported on 15 May. Earlier reports that a member of the OSCE team had been killed in the incident that occurred in the Shali district were later denied, according ITAR-TASS on 14 May. Hungarian Foreign Ministry spokesman Gabor Szentivanyi stressed that the individuals involved, including the American member of the delegation, were acting under the auspices of the U.S., not the OSCE. Szentivanyi said the incident is under investigation. Meanwhile, a body believed to be Cuny's was found near Geldugin in the Chechen Shali region, Interfax reported on 15 May. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. GRACHEV IN CHINA; MOSCOW REGRETS CHINESE NUCLEAR TEST. Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev is heading a high level delegation to China to discuss military cooperation, international agencies reported on 15 May. Chinese Defense Minister Chi Haotian hailed Grachev as "an old friend of the Chinese army." They are scheduled to discuss the possibility of allowing Beijing to manufacture Sukhoi-27 aircraft under license and further arms sales. Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Ministry expressed "regret and anxiety" that the Chinese exploded a nuclear device on 14 May, ITAR-TASS reported the next day. The ministry statement said China's action does not promote "a favorable atmosphere for the multilateral Geneva talks on a comprehensive ban on nuclear tests," which Moscow supports. Grachev said, "Russia responded calmly to the nuclear test, conducted by China, but is following closely the developments connected with it." The Kazakh government has also made an official protest, according to Reuters. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. ST. PETERSBURG ARMS PLANT IN FINANCIAL TROUBLES. The giant Leningrad Northern Military Complex in St. Petersburg--which produces Russia's latest S-300 air defense system among other military products--is on the verge of financial collapse according to an article in the latest edition of the English-language St. Petersburg Press. The paper reported that the plant owes 2 billion rubles ($400,000) to the local water and electric power authorities and another 1.5 billion rubles ($300,000) to the city's pensioners' fund. Its workers have not been paid since January and the money recently allocated by the federal government to help pay the salaries would cover only 80% of those owed for January alone. The factory's directory said only a small portion of the complex is operating at below normal levels "thanks to the workers' sense of responsibility and understanding." The management has high hopes for a project to build civilian helicopters for CIS countries if they can raise the capital to carry it out. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. RUBLE GAINS 32 POINTS AGAINST DOLLAR. The Russian ruble strengthened 32 points against the dollar in 15 May MICEX trading closing at 5,056 rubles to $1, Russian and Western agencies reported. After losing more than 30% of its value against the dollar in the first quarter, the ruble has rebounded to gain nearly 1% and economists attribute the surge partly to moves by the Central Bank, including a sharp tightening of banks' currency reserve requirements and high yields on government treasury bills that make them more profitable to invest in than the dollar. But pressures are expected to increase on the government to loosen its monetary policy, especially from export related industries such as oil and gas producers who lose money when the ruble rises. Igor Doronin, a MICEX analyst, said the surging ruble could prove dangerous for the economy if it continued, fueling inflation if people sell their hard-currency savings and spend them. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. GOVERNMENT HIKES IMPORT DUTIES ON FOODSTUFFS . . . The Russian government issued a resolution confirming the new import customs duties which came into effect on 10 May, Interfax reported on 15 May. The tariff provides for a maximum duty of 30%, except on alcohol, tobacco, and some luxury goods. Import duties on all other goods vary from nothing to 30%. The zero duty was "imposed" on raw materials which Russia does not have. The key feature of the new tariff is that the import duties on food products were raised in an effort to protect national agricultural producers from competition with cheaper Western products. Import duties on meat and meat products were raised from 8% to 15%, on poultry from 20% to 25%, on sausage from 8% to 20%, on butter from 15% to 20%, on fish from 5% to 10%, on white sugar from 20% to 25%, and on vegetables from 5% to 15%. Russia set 10% import duties for roasted coffee beans and packaged tea. Import duties on milk and dairy products remain at 15%. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. .. . . DAVYDOV DOUBTS THE EFFECTIVENESS OF IMPORT DUTIES. Russian Minister of Foreign Trade Oleg Davydov doubts the effectiveness of the new import duty measures that will cause imported food prices to rise an average of 17% to 20%. In a 15 May interview with Interfax, Davydov said the move to protect Russian food producers from foreign competitors would only be effective if it stimulated the supply of Russian produced foodstuffs on the domestic market. However, the persistent shortages of domestic meat, vegetable oil, and sugar will bring about the opposite results, he said. The minister explained that the increase in import tariffs on meat and vegetable oil in 1994 caused prices of those products to rise and destabilized the food market. As a result, President Yeltsin issued a directive to sharply lower customs duties on meat and vegetable oil. Davydov said the new tariff scheme may seriously complicate talks on Russia's membership in the GATT and the World Trade Organization (WTO), the first round of which is to begin sometime in June. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA TAJIK OPPOSITION ARRIVES IN KABUL. Tajik opposition leader Sayid Abdullo Nuri was flown by an Afghan military helicopter to Kabul on 15 May in preparation for a meeting with Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov on 17 May, according to Reuters. Tajik government officials including Security Minister Saidamar Zukhurov and Deputy Foreign Minister Erik Rahmatulayev arrived in the Afghan capital on the previous day to hold preliminary talks with the opposition. According to a Tajik Foreign Ministry statement, the talks will focus on socio-political stability, the situation on the Tajik-Afghan border, and the repatriation of Tajik refugees in Afghanistan would be on the agenda. The meeting in Kabul could lay the groundwork for the fourth round of peace talks scheduled to be held in Almaty, Kazakhstan on 22 May, AFP reported. Within the last week, at least six Tajik servicemen, a Tajik police officer, and 10 rebels were killed. Also more than 20 people were arrested in connection with a plot to assassinate the Tajik president, Interfax reported. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc. FORMER AZERBAIJANI DEFENSE MINISTER SENTENCED TO DEATH. Former Defense Minister Rahim Gaziev has been sentenced to death in absentia by a Baku court on charges of embezzling $500,000 and surrendering the towns of Shusha and Lachin to Armenian forces in the spring of 1992, AFP reported on 14 May quoting Turan news agency. Gaziev was arrested in November 1993 but escaped from the Baku prison where he was being held in September 1994. He is currently in Moscow. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. CIS CIS PEACEKEEPING FORCE TO REMAIN IN ABKHAZIA? Following the UN Security Council's decision on 11 May to extend the mandate of its 136-man observer force in Abkhazia until January 1996, Russian Foreign Ministry officials told Interfax on 15 May that although no firm decision had been taken on renewing the mandate of the Russian peacekeeping troops currently deployed there under the auspices of the CIS, "there is no talk" about their withdrawal once their mandate expires on 15 May. Georgian Defense Minister Lt. Gen. Vardiko Nadibaidze similarly told Interfax that a proposal by the Georgian and Abkhaz leaderships that the Russian peacekeepers remain in Abkhazia through 1995 had been approved at the CIS Defense Ministers' April meeting in Moscow, and the final decision would be endorsed at the CIS summit on 26 May. On 10 May, Georgian refugees forced to flee Abkhazia in 1993 had appealed to UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali and to the Russian and Georgian leaderships not to extend the peacekeepers' mandate before the large- scale repatriation of refugees begins. -- Liz Fuller, 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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