|Man will occasionally stumble over the truth, but most times he will pick himself up and carry on. - Winston Churchill|
No. 98, Part I, 22 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 MORE ACCUSATIONS LEVELED AGAINST CHERNOMYRDIN BLOC . . . Passing a resolution advanced by the Communist and Agrarian parties, the State Duma asked the Justice Ministry to examine the legality of the organizing tactics used by Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's center- right bloc Our Home Is Russia, Interfax reported on 19 May. Communist Duma deputy Anatoly Lukyanov said Chernomyrdin's movement had violated President Boris Yeltsin's June 1991 decree banning local branches of political parties at work enterprises. That decree was aimed at destroying the Communist Party's network of local branches, and Lukyanov said the ban should apply to all political parties equally. Also on 19 May, Duma Security Committee Chairman and Communist Party member Viktor Ilyukhin filed a request with the Prosecutor General's Office to examine whether state funds were illegally used to finance the founding congress of Our Home Is Russia. Meanwhile, although Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Shakhrai has been a leading figure in Chernomyrdin's bloc, the Urals regional branch of Shakhrai's Party of Russian Unity and Accord (PRES) announced that it would not cooperate with representatives of the authorities who have led Russia "into a blind alley," Segodnya reported. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. . . . WHILE CHERNOMYRDIN EXPRESSES OPTIMISM. Appearing on the NTV current events program "Itogi" on 21 May, Chernomyrdin said he is confident his bloc will win a large number of seats in the next Duma. He said, "the people will understand who is who and whom to follow," since opposition parties only criticize without offering constructive programs. Chernomyrdin confirmed that his movement will continue its activities during the 1996 presidential campaign but denied he would run for president. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. MORE MIXED SIGNALS FROM RYBKIN ON CENTER-LEFT BLOC. Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin said he has not yet finalized his election plans, Interfax reported on 19 May. Rybkin has been offered the leadership of the new political movement Concord and met with Russian United Industrial Party (ROPP) leader Vladimir Shcherbakov to discuss a possible alliance. Also on 19 May, Duma deputies from the "Russia" group asked Rybkin to lead a center-left bloc. Russia faction member Igor Shichanin told Interfax only a few deputies from his group had joined Chernomyrdin's movement, while the majority prefer a bloc headed by Rybkin, whom he called "an outstanding politician" with "a spotless reputation." Rybkin insists that he is still a member of the Agrarian Party, which has refused to join a broad electoral alliance. For his part, Agrarian Party leader Mikhail Lapshin described the chances that Rybkin would lead a center- left bloc as "doubtful," NTV reported on 21 May. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. RUMORS OF LUZHKOV'S DISMISSAL DENIED. Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov said false rumors of his imminent dismissal were planted by people who want to provoke a quarrel between him and the president, Ekho Moskvy reported on 20 May. Citing a high-ranking Kremlin official, Ekho Moskvy reported that a decree to fire Luzhkov had been prepared but not yet signed by Yeltsin. The weekly Argumenty i fakty reported that Yeltsin was planning to replace Luzhkov with First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets, but a spokesman for Soskovets told Interfax the article was a "blatant lie" and "absolutely groundless." -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. GAIDAR: YAVLINSKY'S POSITION "BETRAYAL." At a meeting of his party's Moscow council, Russia's Democratic Choice leader Yegor Gaidar called Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky's refusal to form a united democratic electoral alliance a "betrayal" and a "stab in the back," NTV and Russian Public Television reported on 20 May. Gaidar said his party would still work to create a democratic and anti-communist front for the upcoming parliamentary campaign. He said Russia's "capitalist revolution," begun in 1991, had succeeded in making a capitalist economy "a reality" in Russia. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. CABINET DISCUSSES 1996 BUDGET. In an interview with Radio Mayak on 20 May First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais discussed the 1996 draft budget, which the government hopes will be adopted by the end of the year. The draft budget concept will be submitted to the Duma on 15 June. The draft envisages an annual inflation rate of 20% to 25% and an exchange rate of 6,000 rubles to $1. It sets revenues at 273 trillion rubles and spending at 349 trillion rubles. As in 1995, the deficit--4% of GDP--is to be covered by noninflationary sources, Segodnya reported on 19 May. Chubais said tax policy is to be changed considerably with the aim of reducing the burden on producers by scrapping the special tax on enterprises, making tax collection more efficient, and eliminating tax breaks. The government expects to make considerable gains in revenue by reinstating the state monopoly on alcohol products. Chubais said defense spending would remain at the 1995 level. At the cabinet's budget session on 18 May, First Deputy Defense Minister Andrei Kokoshin demanded an increase in military spending. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. YELTSIN VETOES LAW ON CHECHEN TALKS. On 19 May, Russian President Boris Yeltsin vetoed a law, passed by both houses of the Russian parliament calling for unconditional talks with the Dudaev leadership, on the grounds that it violates the Russian Constitution and that such talks could further destabilize the situation rather than lead to a settlement of the conflict, Reuters and Interfax reported, quoting the presidential press service. On 21 May, Interfax quoted State Duma Defense Committee Chairman Sergei Yushenkov as expressing regret at the veto; both Yushenkov and Duma Communist faction leader Anatoly Lukyanov questioned Yeltsin's argument that the law is unconstitutional. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. NEW RUSSIAN OFFENSIVE IN CHECHNYA. Russian troops launched a new full- scale offensive against Chechen positions to the southwest and east of Grozny on 19 May, but met fierce resistance, Western agencies reported. A Chechen military spokesman told journalists on 21 May that some 29 Chechens had been killed and 50 wounded in three days of fighting. He also told AFP that the Russian troops had used chemical defoliants; a Russian spokesman denied the allegation. Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov denied Russian claims that federal troops had taken the village of Chiri Yurt in southern Chechnya on 20 May, according to Russian news agencies. Interfax on 19 May quoted Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev as rejecting Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's proposal of round-table talks; Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev denied reports he would meet with Maskhadov on 22 May, adding that he would only hold talks with Chechen military representatives after they complied with demands for a ceasefire and surrendered their arms. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. CHANGES IN LAND TENURE. State Committee on Land Chairman Nikolai Komov told Interfax on 20 May that despite "weak legislative guarantees," there have been "significant structural changes" in land tenure since 1991. He said that since then, the amount of land held by state farms has shrunk from 124 million hectares to 34 million, while the cooperative sector's holdings have increased from 85 million to 137 million hectares and the private sector's from 4 million to 23 million hectares. He added that the number of "land users" (zemlepolzovateli) has increased from 300,000 to 45 million. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA RUSSIAN EXPERT ON ISLAMIC REVOLUTION IN CENTRAL ASIA. The Islamic Conference Organization, the World Islamic League, and World Islamic Congress are engaged in efforts to strengthen Islam as a force in Central Asia, according to allegations by an unnamed source in the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Interfax reported on 19 May. The source claimed Muslim extremists have been entering the region through porous borders and have penetrated various parts of Uzbekistan, including the Ferghana valley, Samarkand, and Bukhara. The source said diplomatic and intelligence services of unspecified Muslim countries are involved in the dissemination of religious propaganda and recruiting activities and funds are also being funneled "to virtually every mosque" by Saudi sheiks and the Iranian Corps of Revolutionary Guards. The source also noted that Uzbeks in the Kunduz province of Afghanistan are receiving military and ideological training and illegal groups of Uzbek theological students supported by extremist organizations exist in Saudi Arabia and Egypt. There are 20,000 mosques in Uzbekistan at present, according to the source, and the Islamic Renaissance Party of Uzbekistan and Adolat, both banned by the authorities three years ago, are once again active, mainly in the Ferghana valley. If current trends continue, an Islamic revolution is conceivable in five to 10 years, the source predicted. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. ISLAMIC STUDIES CENTER TO OPEN IN TASHKENT. Uzbek President Islam Karimov signed a decree establishing an international Islamic studies center in Tashkent, Interfax reported on 20 May. The center is to be founded at the behest of the state-controlled Muslim spiritual board of Maverannahr and is slated to be funded equally by the state and the spiritual board, according the presidential decree. The center will enjoy the status of a research institute within the framework of the Uzbek Academy of Sciences. It will "study the teachings and philosophy of Islam and explore the religious, historic, and cultural heritage of the people of Uzbekistan." -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. TAJIK CEASEFIRE EXTENDED BY THREE MONTHS. Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov and opposition leader Sayid Abdullo Nuri concluded their talks and agreed on 19 May to extend the shaky ceasefire, due to end on 26 May, by an additional three months, Reuters reported. The fourth round of the UN-sponsored peace talks to be held in Almaty, Kazakhstan, has been rescheduled from 22 May to 24 May. Kazakh spokesman Farkhad Abdukhalikov said the date was changed because the opposition delegation had not yet arrived in the Kazakh capital, according to Reuters. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc. NO BREAKTHROUGH IN KARABAKH TALKS. The OSCE-mediated talks on a settlement to the Karabakh conflict, which resumed in Moscow on 15 May after a three-month hiatus, reportedly achieved little of substance, according to AFP and Interfax. Interfax quoted Finnish diplomat Rene Nyberg on 19 May as stating that the four days of talks had taken place in a "businesslike and open atmosphere," and resulted in unspecified progress towards coordinating a draft agreement. However, the head of the Armenian delegation, deputy foreign minister Vardan Oskanyan, told AFP that the talks ended in "semi-failure" although for the first time the participants discussed the future political status of the disputed enclave. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. CIS RUSSIA ON UNIFICATION WITH BELARUS. President Yeltsin sent an agreement on friendship and cooperation with Belarus to the Russian State Duma for ratification on 18 May, Belarusian radio reported the following day. On 19 May, the Duma voted 249 to zero to prepare for a national Russian referendum on uniting Russia with Belarus. That follows a referendum in Belarus on 14 May which saw a large majority voting in favor of closer economic integration with Russia. Duma deputy Sergei Baburin proposed that the referendum take place on 12 December, the same day as the parliamentary elections. Pravda described the referendum as the first step towards rebuilding the Soviet Union. On 18 May, Belarusian television reported that Russian and Belarusian customs officials have begun working together to bring the country a step closer to a customs union. Meanwhile, the Polish daily Gazeta wyborcza confirmed that Russian customs officers are jointly guarding the Belarusian border. -- 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. 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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