|Life is what happens to us while we're making other plans. - John Lennon|
No. 97, Part I, 19 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 IZVESTIYA: YELTSIN'S TEAM CONCERNED ABOUT CHERNOMYRDIN'S INCREASING POWER. The 19 May edition of Izvestiya claims that the appearance of Prime Minster Viktor Chernomyrdin's right-center bloc without a strong left-center counterweight has turned Chernomyrdin into a possible competitor for the presidency in 1996. The prime minister's rising prominence has alarmed the president's close advisers and may lead them to attempt to postpone the elections. Izvestiya speculates that President Boris Yeltsin's previously announced intention to protest the constitutionality of the State Duma electoral law in the Constitutional Court could force a delay in the parliamentary elections while the case is being litigated, and lead the presidential and parliamentary elections to be held simultaneously in June 1996. Such a move would eliminate Chernomyrdin as a possible competitor to Yeltsin for the presidency, because he would have to concentrate on the parliamentary campaign. The article cited a recent comment by Federation Council Speaker Vladimir Shumeiko that it would not be a disaster to hold both elections together as further evidence that this scenario will be carried out. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. MORE NEW ELECTORAL ALLIANCES. Yury Palchikov, the leader of the Association of Investors, Shareholders, and Borrowers, announced the creation of a new electoral bloc called People (Narod), Ekho Moskvy reported on 18 May. Palchikov said his bloc's goal would be to provide the people with rights they are guaranteed on paper but do not enjoy in practice. The Afghan War Veterans' Fund and the nationalist association Russian Union also joined the People bloc, which hopes to attract the support of citizens who have lost their savings in commercial enterprises. On the same day, the movement Duma-96 announced plans to form its own electoral alliance, Interfax reported. Duma deputy and Duma-96 chairman Anatoly Gordeev named the People's Democratic Party and the Union of Afghan War Veterans as possible partners in his his bloc, which he said would not be an "opposition alliance." -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. CONSTITUTIONAL COURT JUDGES HOLD CONFERENCE. Judges from the Constitutional Court and from constitutional courts in the regions of the Russian Federation held a conference in Moscow, Interfax reported on 18 May. Addressing the conference, President Yeltsin's chief of staff Sergei Filatov criticized attempts by some federation members to "deviate from the Russian Constitution and take as much power as possible from the center, giving nothing in return." He said stability could never be restored under conditions of "lopsided power." Other speakers at the conference emphasized the need for more cooperation between constitutional courts at the federal and regional level. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. SENIOR TAX OFFICIAL ARRESTED IN VLADIVOSTOK BRIBERY SCANDAL. Lt. Col. Alexander Gorbushin, a senior member of the Far Eastern tax police, has been arrested on charges of falsifying documents in the bribery scandal that cost Vladivostok's former mayor his job, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 May. Viktor Cherepkov, elected mayor of Vladivostok in June 1993, was forcibly removed from office in March 1994 after a lengthy investigation in which he was accused of bribe-taking. Cherepkov denied the charges, asserting that he was the victim of a feud between a group of Primorsky Krai industrialists backed by Governor Yevgeny Nazdratenko and the democrats headed by himself. In December 1994, the State Prosecutor's Office ruled that there was insufficient evidence to prove Cherepkov had accepted bribes. Citing sources close to the Prosecutor's Office, Segodnya reported on 17 May that other high-ranking law enforcement officers in Primore will probably be arrested for unlawfully persecuting Cherepkov. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. NUMBER OF AIR CRASHES RISING. In 1994, 302 people were killed in airplane crashes in Russia, up from 222 in 1993, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 May quoting a transport safety official. The number of train accidents also rose. Most of the accidents were caused by negligence and poor maintenance of equipment. In March 1994, 75 people were killed when an Aeroflot airbus crashed near Novokuznetsk with the pilot's 16-year- old son at the controls. Hijacking attempts have also become more frequent, with 120 cases reported last year. Meanwhile, a leading aviation official cited by Reuters said Moscow's four airports need $1.5 billion for renovation work. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. CHERNOMYRDIN, MASKHADOV, GRACHEV ON CHECHNYA. Prime Minister Chernomyrdin has again called for talks "at any level" on a peaceful solution of the Chechen conflict, Interfax reported on 17 May. Chernomyrdin argued that favorable conditions exist for resuming the negotiating process, in which he said it was "logical" that the National Accord Committee headed by Umar Avturkhanov should participate. He also said the Chechen people are not responsible for "the extremist activities of a bunch of political adventurers." Ingush President Ruslan Aushev greeted Chernomyrdin's offer as "a real chance" to end the conflict. In an appeal dated 17 May and summarized by Interfax, Aslan Maskhadov, the head of the Chechen armed forces, in his capacity as a former Soviet army colonel, appealed to Russian military officers to stop combat operations in Chechnya, and expressed willingness to meet with Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev "even on Russian territory." Grachev told journalists in Beijing on 18 May that he would agree to meet with Chechen military leaders only after they comply with the federal government's demand that they cease hostilities and surrender their weapons. He said he would agree to talks with Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev, whom he termed "a state criminal," only with the consent of President Yeltsin -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. CONTINUING SAGA OF GAS CENTRIFUGES TO IRAN. The Russian government would have prevented the transfer of gas centrifuges to Iran on its own initiative without American intervention, a senior official at the Russian Foreign Ministry told Interfax 18 May. The official dismissed charges in the media that a contract to supply the centrifuges had already been signed. Nuclear Energy Minister Viktor Mikhailov had signed a protocol in January "which said that contracts will be written for the training of nuclear physicists for Iran and for the construction of a centrifuge plant," the official said. The minister had the legal right to sign the protocol, which the official said registered Iranian interest in the centrifuges. Nevertheless, the official pointed out that Mikhailov had displayed some "initiative" in the affair since, unlike the training of nuclear specialists, a centrifuge deal would have violated a 1992 agreement on nuclear cooperation with Iran. Mikhailov was unauthorized to take that step. The official conceded that, until recently, the Foreign Ministry was unaware of the details of the Nuclear Energy Ministry's negotiations with Iran but the actual provision of the centrifuges would have required a separate agreement approved by the government. He said he hoped the decision not to provide the centrifuges would "calm the Americans." -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. GOVERNMENT CHIDES OIL INDUSTRY FOR DECLINING OUTPUT. The Russian government, in a special commission meeting chaired by First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets, criticized the oil industry for failure to reverse output declines, which affect export earnings, the Petroleum Information Agency and Western agencies reported on 18 May. A document distributed at the meeting reported that crude oil output declined by 3% in the first four months of this year, compared with the same period in 1994 and drilling work dropped by 18%. About 27.2% of Russian oil wells remain idle due to lack of funds. Refineries are operating at less than 55% capacity and many farming regions and remote northern areas are experiencing fuel shortages. Equipment, pipelines, and other machinery are corroding and wearing out, often resulting in major accidents. The commission called on ministries and companies to take steps to remedy the problem but made no specific recommendations. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. GOVERNMENT TO ISSUE "GOLD CERTIFICATES." Russian President Boris Yeltsin ordered the issuance of "gold certificates," a new type of government security to be backed by gold, the Finance Ministry told the Financial Information Agency on 18 May. Complying with the general conditions for the issuance of federal bonds, 2 trillion rubles (about $400 million) worth of certificates is slated to hit the market by the end of June. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA TAJIK PRESIDENT, OPPOSITION LEADER OPEN TALKS. Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov met with the Islamic Renaissance Movement leader Sayid Abdullo Nuri in Kabul on 17 and 18 May to discuss ways of ending the conflict in Tajikistan. The talks focused on the return of Tajik refugees living in Afghanistan and ending the armed conflict on the border of Tajikistan and Afghanistan. Ali Akbar Turadzhonzoda, a Tajik opposition leader, said the meetings marked "progress in inter-Tajik relations" but went on to say that "no serious achievements were reached," Interfax reported. The opposition has put forth three demands: an interim government in Dushanbe made up of neutral personalities, the use of peacekeepers from Iran, Pakistan, Russia, and Turkey to separate rival factions, and the withdrawal of Russian troops from the Gorno-Badakhshan area, AFP reported. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc. TAJIK OPPOSITION GIVES WARNING. In an interview with Interfax on 18 May, Turadzhonzoda said clandestine groups loyal to the opposition are currently in Tajikistan, and they are capable of applying extra pressure on the Dushanbe government "if needed." He denied charges by the Tajik Security Ministry that members of Tajikistan's Islamic Renaissance Movement had been detained in connection with terrorist activities in Dushanbe. Turadzhonzoda said, "Our armed forces have never carried out any terrorist acts against civilian targets nor individuals, nor do they intend to perpetrate such acts." He claimed that more and more people both inside and outside Tajikistan support the opposition. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc. NIYAZOV VISITS MOSCOW. Talks between Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov and his Russian counterpart, Boris Yeltsin, reflected similar views on the matters discussed, Interfax reported on 18 May. Discussion focused on several issues, including Russian use of military facilities in Turkmenistan, joint operation of gas pipelines, measures to counteract Central Asia's "Islamization," securing the Tajik-Afghan border, and the status of the Caspian Sea. Yeltsin pledged to use his influence to solve border problems, thereby improving Russo-Afghan relations and helping the situation in Tajikistan. Niyazov told Interfax the Caspian is an "internal sea" which cannot be divided, a position that supports the Russian view but opposes that of Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. CIS RUSSIA ON BELARUSIAN REFERENDUM. Unlike the Russian media, which has voiced mixed reactions to the Belarusian referendum on 14 May, the Belarusian media has only reported on positive reactions from Russia. On 17 and 18 May, Belarusian media reported that Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev was well disposed toward the results, that the Russian State Duma is preparing a statement upholding the referendum's results and that the St. Petersburg organization of Russian writers has written to Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka congratulating him on the results. In contrast, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 16 May that President Yeltsin and Prime Minister Chernomyrdin do not care for Lukashenka and that former acting Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar has warned Russian taxpayers that a union with Belarus may be costly to them. The newspaper also cast doubt on the realization of the proposed customs union between the two states. -- Ustina Markus, 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. 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