|The fool wonders, the wise man asks. - Benjamin Disraeli|
No. 96, Part I, 18 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 YELTSIN SIGNS LAW ON PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS. President Boris Yeltsin signed the law on presidential elections, Russian agencies reported on 17 May. The law was rejected at first by the Federation Council, but on 21 April, the State Duma passed an amended version, which was approved by the Council on 4 May. The law sets presidential elections for the first Sunday after the president's term expires in June 1996. In order to register, presidential candidates must collect one million signatures, no more than 7% of them from any one region of the Russian Federation. Campaigns will not be publicly funded, but candidates may create and manage their own election funds. Total campaign expenditures may not exceed 250,000 times the minimum wage; individual donations are limited to 50 times the minimum wage, and contributions from legal entities are limited to 5,000 times the minimum wage. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. WOMEN OF RUSSIA TO CAMPAIGN INDEPENDENTLY. Yekaterina Lakhova, leader of the Duma faction Women of Russia, announced that her group will campaign for the next parliamentary elections independently, Rossiiskie vesti reported on 18 May. Lakhova described Women of Russia as a "centrist" movement with its own "political niche" and a stable group of supporters. She accused other political parties of thinking about women only "on the eve of elections." Lakhova cited the experience of the Women's Forum, which joined Grigory Yavlinsky's Yabloko bloc before the 1993 parliamentary elections. That group's leaders were placed too low on the Yabloko party list and were left with no representatives in the Duma. Lakhova said financing the campaign would be her movement's biggest problem, since wealthy donors would be drawn to more powerful blocs. However, she said she was confident of once again clearing the 5% barrier to enter parliament. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. ZAVERYUKHA TO REMAIN OUTSIDE CHERNOMYRDIN BLOC. Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zaveryukha will stay away from the new electoral bloc set up by Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, Interfax reported 17 May. He will instead work within the Agrarian Party. Earlier, Chernomyrdin had said that all members of the government would participate in his bloc. Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev has also kept his distance from the new organization. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. RYBKIN'S CONCORD MOVEMENT SEEKS REGISTRATION. The new Concord movement, which is led by Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin and includes the Free Russia People's Party, the Socialist Workers' Party, and the Federation of Independent Trade Unions, is seeking formal registration with the Justice Ministry, according to Vasily Lipitsky, leader of the Free Russia People's Party, Interfax reported on 17 May. He also said the Russian Youth Union had affirmed its plans to join Rybkin's alliance in a meeting with him on 17 May. According to parliamentary sources quoted by Interfax, Rybkin participated in the founding conference of the Concord movement on 15 May and his aide Nikolai Sakharov was elected head of the new movement's executive council. Rybkin himself said it is still too early to talk about the new coalition and his role in it. Mikhail Lapshin, leader of the Agrarian Party of which Rybkin is a member, said the Duma speaker remains on the Agrarian Party list and rumors that he would lead a left-center bloc are an attempt to discredit him and damage the Agrarian Party, Russian Public Television reported. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. GREENPEACE PROTESTS ALLEGED IMPORT OF TOXIC WASTE. Greenpeace has accused Russian customs authorities of letting about 1,000 tons of French toxic waste into the country and then selling it, Interfax reported on 17 May. About 20 Greenpeace activists carrying posters saying "Foreign Waste Collection Point" demonstrated outside the Main Customs Committee building in Moscow to protest the alleged deal; about 10 protesters were arrested. The environmental organization claims that waste containing a cocktail of dangerous substances was illegally brought into the country in January 1994 and sold by customs officials to a private firm that lacks safe storage facilities. It says the materials must be sent back to France, which is ready to accept them, and that the customs officials should be punished. The Customs Committee, however, refuted the charges, saying Greenpeace has distorted the facts. It says it uncovered poisonous waste in a cargo bound for a Urals firm in January 1994 and confiscated it. The customs then hired a company to track down the owner and return the waste, according to a company spokesperson cited by Western agencies. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. CRIMES BY AND AGAINST FOREIGNERS IN MOSCOW ON THE RISE. The number of crimes committed by foreigners in Moscow is increasing, mostly involving drug trafficking and extortion, police official Viktor Seroshtan told reporters on 17 May. He said 516 crimes by residents of countries outside the former Soviet Union were reported in the first four months of the year compared with 460 during the same period in 1994, Russian and Western agencies reported. Seroshtan blamed the increase on transparent borders with the other former Soviet republics which allow criminals to enter Russia more easily. Foreigners are also increasingly falling victim to crimes. So far this year, 300 crimes against foreigners have been reported in the Russian capital, including six murders. The number of violent crimes jumped to 259 from 141 in 1994. Seroshtan said those doing illegal business are most at risk. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIAN GENERALS OPPOSE PARTNERSHIP FOR PEACE, AGREEMENT ON ABMs. Russian senior military commanders oppose the agreements on anti- ballistic missile systems (ABMs) concluded at the recent Moscow summit between Russian President Boris Yeltsin and his U.S. counterpart Bill Clinton on anti-ballistic missile systems (ABMs) and NATO's Partnership for Peace, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 17 May. They felt the decision to begin consultations on ABMs could allow the U.S. to deploy "theater" systems as early as next year, possibly providing a strategic cover for the continental U.S. The commanders view recent military exercises between NATO and the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia as preparations for future NATO military operations at the beginning of a war. Sources at Russian Army headquarters also cite NATO plans to move five divisions into the Baltic states. Russia should only cooperate with NATO if it is allowed to base "powerful" forces along its borders, which would require a revision of international treaties. Moreover, they believe Russia should join NATO as an equal and be allowed to veto any decision that conflicts with Russian interests. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. ILYUKHIN CONDEMNS SOROS FUND ACTIVITIES. A report prepared by Duma Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin condemning the activities of the Soros Fund was published in Sovetskaya Rossiya on 18 May. Ilyukhin cast doubt on the "philanthropic activities" of the fund, which has spent hundreds of millions of dollars in Russia in recent years. He charged that a number of Soros employees are CIA agents. Ilyukhin said the fund's main function is to train "Soros teachers" and "Soros professors" to "change the mentality of Russian society," which he said would lead to a "terrible degradation of societal, patriotic, and national consciousness." Ilyukhin also blamed alleged speculation by Soros in the Russian stock market for "Black Tuesday" in October 1994, when the ruble lost approximately a quarter of its value. Ilyukhin proposed that the Duma more strictly regulate foreign philanthropic and commercial activities, especially in scientific fields. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. RETAIL PRICES CONTINUE TO CLIMB. Russian retail prices increased an average of 1.5% from 4-10 May, according to Goskomstat, Izvestiya reported on 17 May. Food items were up 1.7%, consumer goods 1.2%, and consumer services 1.9%. Since the beginning of the month, retail prices have increased 2.1% (food items 2.5%, consumer goods 1.2%, and consumer services 3.2%). The average cost of a set of 19 staple items is now at 171,000 rubles ($33.52) per person, a 1.6% increase compared to late April. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. RUBLE WEAKENS AGAINST DOLLAR AFTER 10-DAY STRENGTHENING. The Russian ruble, which has been strengthening against the U.S. dollar since 6 May, slipped 12 points to 5,038 rubles to $1 in MICEX trading on 17 May, the Financial Information Agency reported the same day. Initial supply was $82.17 million and demand $102.51 million. Dealers reported that the Central Bank sold $20.24 million and commercial banks withdrew bids for $100,000 during the session. Analysts said the resumption of the ruble's decline was no surprise and attributed the market environment to commercial banks selling large quantities of currency, thus stimulating a return of ruble supplies to the inter-bank currency market. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA NEW ARMENIAN INTELLIGENCE CHIEF APPOINTED. Armenian President Levon Ter- Petrossyan has appointed former Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisyan to head the Department of State Security in place of David Shakhnazaryan, who has resigned, Reuters reported on 17 May quoting the presidential press service. The Armenian intelligence service had incurred considerable negative publicity in 1994 after its agents arrested the deputy to the president's former national security adviser. Deputy Defense Minister Mikhail Arutyunyan has been appointed acting defense minister. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. NIYAZOV IN MOSCOW. Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov's 17-19 May visit to Moscow is expected to result in the signing of 22 economic and political agreements between Turkmenistan and Russia, Western and Russian media reported on 17 May. The key document to be signed is an agreement on strategic partnership, according to Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev. In addition, accords on the protection of the rights of ethnic minorities, fuel and energy cooperation, and various military documents are to be signed. The foreign minister of Turkmenistan was quoted by Interfax as saying Turkmenistan considers Russia to be "a long-term and strategic partner." The agreements constitute a substantive shift in Turkmenistan's orientation back toward Russia. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. ETHNIC GERMANS DEPARTING CENTRAL ASIA. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Yegorov informed Interfax that the amount of ethnic Germans leaving Kazakhstan is two times greater than the number leaving Russia, the agency reported on 16 May. Yegorov said 112,000 Germans have moved to Russia from other CIS countries, while 200,000 have left Russia for Germany in the first four months of this year. Germany and Russia have pledged to allocate 53 billion rubles ($10.5 million) and DM 160 million in 1995 to improve the living standards of ethnic Germans. In early April, German President Roman Herzog visited Kazakhstan but failed to reach an agreement on the protection of an estimated 550,000 ethnic Germans living there. It is unclear how many ethnic Germans remain in Central Asia. On 3 May, Aalam reported that Kyrgyzstan's total population is 4,499,000; how many of the 71,197 people who left the republic in 1994 were ethnic Germans, is unclear. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. CIS COOPERATION BETWEEN RUSSIA AND BELARUS TO FORM NEW BASIS FOR CIS. Ivan Korotchenya, the executive secretary of the CIS, said the recent memorandum on economic cooperation between Belarus and Russia "constitutes a qualitatively new basis for the commonwealth," Interfax reported on 17 May. The agreement will be signed at the summit of CIS leaders and governments scheduled to be held in Minsk on 26 May. Korotchenya said the most important items to be discussed at the summit include the CIS convention on human rights, which "directly concerns Russian speakers living outside Russia," a treaty on protecting borders with non-CIS states, and the renewal of mandates for peacekeepers in Tajikistan and Abkhazia. Korotchenya refuted as "groundless and false" claims by some politicians that CIS agreements "don't work" although he did acknowledge that some of them do not work as hoped because of a lack of "political will" among certain CIS member states. -- 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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