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No. 100, Part I, 24 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 NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA TO SUSPEND PUBLICATION. In an open letter to readers, Nezavisimaya gazeta editor-in-chief Vitaly Tretyakov announced that, due to continuing financial problems, the 24 May edition of his newspaper will be the last for some time. Nezavisimaya gazeta receives no subsidies from the federal or Moscow governments, and after four and a half years of publication, the newspaper has exhausted its financial resources. Tretyakov estimated that $10 million are needed to transform Nezavisimaya gazeta into a profitable enterprise. He pledged to make the newspaper a joint stock company without changing its political identity and reputation for independence. Tretyakov said that under the restructuring plan, the editors would control at least 30% of the shares, and no one investor could purchase more than 20%. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. FEDERATION COUNCIL SUSPENDS PRIVATIZATION OF RUSSIAN PUBLIC TELEVISION. By a vote of 98 to eight, the Federation Council passed a State Duma bill suspending the creation of the partly-private Russian Public Television company (ORT), Russian media reported on 23 May. The first attempt to pass the law failed by one vote, but the Council held a second roll-call vote later in the day. President Boris Yeltsin is almost certain to veto the law, which would suspend the reorganization of state-run Ostankino TV, prohibit ORT from broadcasting on Channel 1, and halt all state funding to ORT. Duma Privatization Committee Chairman Sergei Burkov, the author of the bill, vowed to take his fight to the Constitutional Court in the event of a presidential veto. Yeltsin decreed the reorganization of Ostankino and the creation of Russian Public Television in November 1994. ORT took over Channel 1 broadcasting from Ostankino on 1 April. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. FEDERATION COUNCIL REJECTS LAW ON MEDIA SUBSIDIES. Upholding a recommendation from its budget committee, the Council rejected the law on state support of the mass media passed by the Duma on 7 April, Interfax reported on 23 May. The law would replace most media subsidies with tax breaks for newspapers, TV and radio companies, and publishing houses. It will now be sent to a parliamentary conciliatory commission. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. EXPLOSION AT TULA NEWSPAPER OFFICE. One person was killed and three others injured in a blast at the office of a local newspaper in a town near Tula, Russian and Western agencies reported on 23 May. The cause of the explosion is not known. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. DUMA REACTION TO PRESIDENT'S VETO OF ELECTORAL LAW. The Duma will probably accept President Yeltsin's amendments to the Duma electoral law and pass a new version of the bill Yeltsin vetoed, Moskovsky komsomolets reported on 24 May. Mikhail Mityukov, a Duma member from Russia's Choice, said he expected the new law to be adopted and signed by the beginning of July, according to Ekho Moskvy. Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin is optimistic a compromise will be reached, although he believes that Yeltsin's proposal to raise the level of turnout from 25% to 50% to validate the elections is "hardly realistic," Interfax reported. However, others felt the veto signaled the beginning of another showdown in Moscow. Vladimir Averchev, a deputy for the Yabloko faction, said, "if the Duma respects itself, it will stick to its position," Ekho Moskvy reported. Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov said his party will try to overturn the veto, according to Reuters. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. FEDERATION COUNCIL, REGIONAL LEADERS SUPPORT VETO. Council Deputy Chairman Anatoly Dolgolaptev said Yeltsin's veto of the electoral law showed respect for the opinion of the Federation Council, Interfax reported on 23 May. On 11 May, the Duma overruled the Council and sent the proposed law to Yeltsin. The presidents of Yakutia and Bashkortostan also applauded Yeltsin's move indicating they feel that the party lists give too much representation to Moscow at the expense of Russia's other regions. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. BOIKO HOPES TO BUY SBERBANK. Oleg Boiko, the banker with close political ties to President Yeltsin, is trying to gain control of Sberbank (Savings Bank), one of Russia's two largest banks, Segodnya reported on 23 May. The bank must be privatized in accordance with the adoption of a new version of the Law on the Central Bank which comes into effect on 1 January 1996. The people who control the bank will have enormous economic resources and substantial political clout in an election year. Boiko has played a role in setting up the pro-presidential Stability Duma faction and he sits on the boards of Russian Public Television and Izvestiya. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. INVESTIGATION INTO MEN CASE HALTED. The investigation into the murder of reformist priest Alexander Men has been suspended, NTV reported on 22 May. Men was killed by an axe blow in September 1990. Last November, a suspect was arrested in St. Petersburg but subsequently released. The Interior Ministry and Prosecutor's Office have been sharply criticized for failing to make progress on a number of prominent murder cases. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. DRUG TRAFFICKING, ABUSE UP. Drug trafficking and drug abuse have been steadily increasing in recent years, according to the Interior Ministry and Customs Committee, Interfax reported on 23 May. According to official statistics, more than 10% of the population have tried drugs and 1.5 million people are regular users. About 6 million Russians are drug addicts and another 20 million have taken drugs more than once, according to an international drug agency cited by Nezavisimaya gazeta on 23 May. Porous borders with CIS states, good opportunities for money- laundering in Russia, and poor law-enforcement are among the reasons for the rise in drug smuggling. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. DEFENSE PLANTS TO BE LICENSED TO SELL PRODUCTS ABROAD. First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets told a conference of defense plant managers in Tatarstan that the government is working out a system to enable defense plants to sell their products abroad on their own, Interfax reported on 23 May. He said he had ordered such a license to be issued to the Kazan Helicopter Works within a month. An adviser to Tatar Prime Minister Nazir Kireyev told the conference that the economic situation of the republic's many defense enterprises is continuing to deteriorate. He said the enterprises are receiving only one-sixth as many defense contracts as earlier. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. NATO EXPANSION CAUSES ANXIETY IN THE WEST. NATO plans to expand eastward are causing anxiety in the West, according to Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Demurin, Interfax reported on 23 May. Demurin cited a letter that several former American ambassadors sent to U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher which stated, "admitting Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic would exacerbate instability and consolidate in Russian public opinion the view that the U.S. and the West do not seek to integrate Russia into a new European system of collective security but instead to isolate, surround, and subdue it." Demurin said security could be better strengthened through the development of a new security model for the 21st century launched at the December 1994 OSCE summit. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. OSCE TO CONVENE CHECHEN PEACE TALKS. Hungarian diplomat Andre Erdes flew from Budapest to Moscow on 23 May to deliver a message to participants in the OSCE-mediated talks on resolving the Chechen conflict scheduled to take place in Grozny on 25 May, according to Interfax and an OSCE press release of 23 May. On 21 May, the OSCE had extended an invitation to the talks to representatives of the Russian Federal authorities, the Chechen Committee of National Accord headed by Umar Avturkhanov, and Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev. All parties have reportedly accepted the invitation; Dudaev, who on 22 May asserted that he would never agree to talks with either Avturkhanov or Chechen Prime Minister Salambek Khadzhiev, has nominated former Chechen Prosecutor-General Usman Imaev to be his representative at the talks. It is unclear whether Dudaev still insists on a withdrawal of all federal troops from Chechnya as a precondition for participating. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA KAZAKHSTAN TO EXPLODE NUCLEAR DEVICE. A joint Russian-Kazakh commission has decided to detonate a 300-ton nuclear device on site at Kazakhstan's Semipalatinsk nuclear test center, AFP reported. Since September 1994, nuclear experts had been debating whether to dismantle the device and ship it to the Chelyabinsk-70 nuclear center for detonation, but they finally agreed to explode it on site to avoid a possible accident. The detonation is scheduled for between 28 May and 12 June, when favorable weather is expected. No nuclear devices have been exploded in Kazakhstan since the former Soviet Union imposed a moratorium on such tests, according to Western sources. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc. THE AGA KHAN MEETS WITH TAJIK PRESIDENT. The spiritual leader of the Ismaili Muslims, Prince Karim Aga Khan, met with Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov on 23 May, to sign an accord on long-term development programs in Tajikistan, AFP reported. The Aga Khan Foundation has been working in Tajikistan since 1993 and sponsors many agrarian reform programs, particularly in the Gorno-Badakhshan region in the south which is home to many of the 200,000 Ismaili Muslims living in Tajikistan. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc. SOUTH KOREA, UZBEKISTAN SIGN ACCORD. An agreement for South Korea to provide textbooks, educational aids, and teacher-training for ethnic Korean schoolchildren and teachers living in Uzbekistan was signed on 23 May, Interfax reported. The agency reported that there are some 240,000 ethnic Koreans living in Uzbekistan. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. DEADLINE FOR DISARMING MKHEDRIONI EXTENDED. On 22 May, Georgian parliament chairman Eduard Shevardnadze issued a second decree detailing measures to ensure the disarming of illegal armed units, Interfax reported. The decree substantiates an earlier decree issued on 4 May requiring the Mkhedrioni paramilitary organization to surrender its arms. A parliamentary commission created to oversee first decree's implementation had set a deadline of 17 May, which has now been extended until 6 June, according to a spokesman for the Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs. Mkhedrioni leader Dzhaba Ioseliani initially refused to comply with the 4 May decree but later said he would do so "as a goodwill gesture." -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. CIS FOREIGN MINISTERS MEET TO CONSIDER SUMMIT AGENDA. The CIS foreign ministers were scheduled to meet on 24 May to draw up an agenda for the 26 May CIS summit, Interfax reported on 23 May. The CIS convention on human rights and freedoms is expected to cause the most debate. Ukraine objected that its other international commitments prevent it from signing the convention, while Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, and Moldova have proposed that the CIS adopt a human rights declaration based on the convention. The convention on border rights is also expected to evoke controversy. Ukraine, for example, maintains that the convention contradicts its domestic legislation. Other items expected to be on the agenda include the creation of an interstate currency committee, the renewal of the CIS peacekeeping mandate in Tajikistan and Abkhazia, and the implementation of a CIS collective security system. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. CIS INTERSTATE ECONOMIC COMMITTEE MEETS. The CIS Interstate Economic Committee has agreed on a mechanism to settle interstate payments in mutual trade and economic relations dating back to 1992-1993, Interfax reported on 23 May. In particular, the committee announced it would use the ruble-U.S. dollar exchange rate on the date of transaction. The agreement will be submitted to the CIS summit for approval on 26 May. Russia is owed 2.4 trillion rubles by CIS states for 1992-1993, including 1.25 trillion rubles from Ukraine and 300 billion rubles from Belarus. The CIS committee also agreed to fund the Collective Security Council with Russia paying half the costs but postponed consideration of how to fund a center on the effects of nuclear contamination. -- 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. 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