|A disagreement may be the shortest cut between two minds. - Kahlil Gibran|
No. 99, Part I, 23 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 VETOES DUMA ELECTORAL LAW. President Boris Yeltsin vetoed the Duma electoral law and plans to send amendments back to the legislature, ITAR-TASS reported on 22 May quoting reliable sources in the Kremlin. Yeltsin objects to three features of the version approved by the Duma, according to presidential chief of staff Sergei Filatov. First, he believes that electing 50% of the Duma members by party ticket is too many. Second, he wants to peg the necessary turnout for the elections to be considered valid at 50%, rather than the current bill's proposal of 25%. Third, Yeltsin objects to the provision that requires public servants and government officials who run for the Duma to suspend their professional activities two months before the elections. Since Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and most of his government are running for the Duma, Filatov argued that such a requirement would leave Russia without leadership. Yeltsin's veto was unexpected because his aides had been saying he would sign the law and immediately propose amendments to correct the features he found unacceptable. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. RYBKIN CALM ABOUT VETO. Even before Yeltsin had vetoed the law, Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin said he did not see "anything special" in the president's move. He told Interfax on 22 May that electing only 150 members on party lists is "quite acceptable." Nor did he object to making changes to address Yeltsin's other concerns. However, Galina Starovoitova, Co-Chair of the Democratic Russia Party, said Yeltsin's proposals could wreck the elections and increase the chances of another coup attempt. She called on all parties to demand that the president "not create obstacles to free elections." -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. ALL-RUSSIAN PEOPLE'S CONGRESS FOUNDED. Promising to promote the interests of the middle class and revive Russian science and culture, the All-Russian People's Congress (VNK) held its founding conference in Moscow, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 23 May. Duma deputy Nikolai Stolyarov, formerly of the New Regional Policy faction, will lead the new movement. Unlike many political parties, which are hoping to receive the necessary 5% of the vote nationwide to enter the Duma from party lists, the VNK will concentrate its resources on electing Duma deputies in single-member constituencies. Stolyarov said his group will cooperate with "a broad spectrum of organizations" interested in "stabilizing the situation" in Russia. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. BABURIN: "UNITE NATIONAL AND SOVIET VALUES." Russian Public Union (ROS) leader Sergei Baburin told an interviewer in the 20 May edition of Pravda that his party wishes to form an electoral bloc with "patriotic" and "left-wing" organizations. Baburin said he regretted that the Communist and Agrarian parties plan to campaign for parliament independently. He named Stanislav Terekhov's Officers' Union as a possible partner but rejected cooperation with Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party or Alexander Rutskoi's Derzhava movement. Baburin said Russia's revival depends on uniting "our national traditions with the values of the Soviet period and the practical achievements of the Soviet Union." -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. CHANCES OF POLITICAL PARTIES DURING ELECTIONS ASSESSED. The democratic parties have a strong chance of doing well in the upcoming parliamentary elections, according to an analysis of the results of previous elections, Izvestiya reported on 23 May. Izvestiya identified the fragmentation of the democratic parties themselves and the possibility of electoral fraud on the part of the federal and local executive branch authorities as posing a threat to the democratic parties' chances. Assuming that the elections are ultimately conducted honestly, the paper recommends that the democrats overcome their disunity by conducting primaries to ascertain which of their candidates is the most popular and then rally behind him or her in the December elections. In an analysis of Russia's political spectrum, Moskovsky komsomolets gives good chances to Gennady Zyuganov's Communist Party, especially outside the major cities. The paper predicts that Vladimir Zhirinovsky's party will have greatly reduced representation in the new Duma. Chernomyrdin's bloc is also unlikely to attract mass support among the voters. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIA TO CONTINUE NUCLEAR COOPERATION WITH IRAN. Russian Nuclear Energy Minister Viktor Mikhailov announced on 22 May that Russia intends to sign a contract later this year to build a 40 megawatt research light- water nuclear reactor in Iran, Interfax and AFP reported the same day. Mikhailov accused the West of inconsistency in acting to thwart Russian plans to train some 20 to 40 Iranian experts, while "thousands" are studying in the West. Responding to criticisms that Iran lacks the funds to pay for the Bushehr power reactors, Mikhailov said the Iranians will pay "because it is a matter of prestige for them." Contradicting earlier statements from the Russian Foreign Ministry, Mikhailhov said no decision has been made on whether to supply Iran with gas centrifuges for uranium enrichment. He argued that the centrifuges are unrelated to nuclear weapons and even Germany and Japan have them. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. DUMA BUDGET COMMITTEE CRITICIZES GOVERNMENT. The Duma Budget Committee has accused the government of exaggerating progress in cutting the budget deficit and stabilizing the economy, international media reported on 22 May. In a draft resolution responding to a cabinet report on the implementation of the budget in the first quarter, the committee said that although revenues exceeded planned levels by 3%, that reflected the sale of gold and profits from currency speculation rather than improved economic performance, Interfax reported. The committee noted that revenues from privatization and import and export tariffs were lower than planned and that government spending was underfinanced by 18%. It also challenged the government's assertion that it will finance the budget deficit from noninflationary sources, noting that deficit financing is 36% below target. Meanwhile, the Finance Ministry said it intends to make 50.4 trillion rubles ($10 billion) available for government spending in the second quarter, that is 91% of planned expenditure. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. TAX ARREARS CONTINUE TO GROW. According to the Federal Tax Service, the amount of taxes owed to the federal budget grew from 7 trillion rubles ($1.4 billion) at the beginning of the year to 16.3 trillion rubles ($3.2 billion) by 1 May, Interfax reported on 22 May. Tax arrears to budgets at all levels totaled 28.5 trillion rubles ($5.7 billion). VAT arrears amounted to 8.5 trillion rubles ($1.7 billion) and profits tax arrears to 3.4 trillion rubles ($670 million). The government is currently debating changes in the tax system to make collection more efficient. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. TRADE UNION ELECTION PLANS. Mikhail Shmakov, the chairman of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions (FNPR), called on 22 May for regional unions to support the association Russian Trade Unions in the election campaign, Interfax reported. He said the federation had signed a declaration of intent to form an electoral bloc with Vladimir Shcherbakov's Russian United Industrialists' Party and Yury Petrov's Union of Realists and that it is still considering the possibility of cooperating with other blocs. The FNPR will finalize its election platform at a meeting of its general council on 1 June. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. YELTSIN RENOMINATES PARAMONOVA AS CENTRAL BANK HEAD. Presidential aide Alexander Livshits said that President Yeltsin intends to renominate Tatyana Paramonova for the post of Central Bank head, Segodnya reported on 20 May. Paramonova has been acting head since Viktor Gerashchenko was dismissed in the wake of "Black Tuesday" last October. The Duma rejected her candidacy the first time round in protest at the dismissal of her predecessor. Paramonova's performance as bank head has generally been positively assessed, and Yeltsin's renomination of her is viewed as evidence of his commitment to curbing inflation. Segodnya argued that if Paramonova's appointment is approved, tension is likely to increase between the Finance Ministry and the Central Bank, as the bank attempts to restrain the inflationary aspirations of the executive. In earlier confrontations between the Finance Ministry and the Central Bank, the former was the stronger defender of financial stabilization policies. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. CENTRAL BANK HEAD ON RESERVE REQUIREMENTS. Paramonova said on 22 May that a sharp reduction in the compulsory reserves of commercial banks at the Central Bank was out of the question at present, Interfax reported. She said such a move would "intentionally promote higher inflation . . . We cannot endanger the country's economic interests to meet those of major commercial banks." The Association of Russian Banks has been calling for the mandatory reserve requirements to be reduced from 20% to 10% on ruble accounts and from 1.5% to 0.5% on hard currency accounts, arguing that high rates hinder investment in industry. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIA SETS CONDITIONS FOR FUTURE PARTICIPATION IN KARABAKH TALKS. The pipeline supplying Armenia with natural gas from Turkmenistan was damaged by an explosion near the Georgian frontier during the night of 21-22 May, according to Reuters and Interfax. Gas supplies to Armenia were suspended, according to Reuters, but it is unclear for how long. This is the ninth attempt to sabotage the pipeline in two years. The Armenian Foreign Ministry accused Azerbaijani agents of causing the explosion and announced that Armenia would not participate in the next round of OSCE-mediated talks on a settlement of the Karabakh conflict in Helsinki next month until the Armenian government received unspecified guarantees that its energy supplies would not be further disrupted. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. U.S. CHIEF OF STAFF OFFERS MILITARY AID TO GEORGIA. General John Shalikashvili, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in Tbilisi on 22 May that the U.S. is prepared to assist Georgia in building and strengthening its armed forces, ITAR-TASS reported. Shalikashvili--whose father was born in Georgia--had just met with Georgian Parliament Chairman Eduard Shevardnadze and Defense Minister Vardiko Nadibaidze. He added that American assistance should be accompanied "not by rivalry but rather by cooperation with Russia." -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. KARIMOV AND BHUTTO ON KASHMIR, AFGHANISTAN. During Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's visit to Uzbekistan on 21 and 22 May, several agreements on increasing economic cooperation, tourism, and science were signed, Western news agencies reported. Talks between Bhutto and her Uzbek counterpart Abdul Hassan Mulatov and President Islam Karimov focused on bilateral trade issues as well as Kashmir, which Pakistan and India are at loggerheads over, and the situation in Afghanistan. Although Uzbekistan has traditionally maintained close ties with India, Karimov called for UN-sponsored talks between India and Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir conflict. Bhutto for her part said she was "encouraged" by Uzbek support on Kashmir and voiced "satisfaction that our views coincide." Karimov said Bhutto's visit would strengthen joint efforts to stabilize Afghanistan and Tajikistan; Islamabad pledged to support a UN Security Council initiative to impose an arms embargo on Afghanistan. Some 15 agreements between Pakistan and Uzbekistan have been signed since 1991. Both sides are seeking to increase rail and road links and are committed to establishing a road that will connect Pakistan with Central Asia and Xinjiang, China. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. CIS FORECASTS ON EMIGRATION FROM CENTRAL ASIA. During hearings at the Russian Federation Council, the Federal Migration Service (FMS) revealed official statistics on the number of registered refugees and the amount of expected emigres in the coming year, Interfax reported on 22 May. Since July 1992, a total of 702,500 refugees have been registered from the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union and unstable regions of the Russian Federation. The actual number of refugees is likely to be considerably higher than the figures for registered refugees would indicate. In the coming year, the FMS expects 180,000- 195,000 people to emigrate from Kazakhstan; 85,000-95,000 from Uzbekistan; 66,000-75,000 from Kyrgyzstan; 35,000-40,000 from Tajikistan; and 14,000-16,000 from Turkmenistan. Ukraine is also expected to generate about 180,000-200,000 emigrants. -- Lowell Bezanis, 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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