|Words that open our eyes to the world are always the easiest to remember. - Ryszard Kapuscinski|
No. 102, Part I, 26 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 RUSSIAN REACTION TO NATO AIR STRIKES IN BOSNIA. According to a statement issued by the Russian Foreign Ministry, and reported by ITAR-TASS on 25 May, Moscow does not stand behind NATO's 25 air attacks against Bosnian Serb targets. The strikes were launched when the Bosnian Serb side failed to comply with a UN ultimatum to return four heavy guns stolen near the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo. "The course of events in Bosnia over the past months and weeks requires urgent efforts toward political settlement, with maximum restraint in the use of force," the statement said, stressing that singling out the Bosnian Serbs is no path to resolving regional conflict. Nevertheless, Moscow's support for the Bosnian Serb side also appears less than wholehearted. On 26 May Reuters quoted President Boris Yeltsin as saying the Bosnian Serbs "got it" because they did not halt their military activities. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc. CONFLICTING REPORTS ON LUZHKOV'S FUTURE. Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov may soon be fired or forced to resign due to conflicts with the federal government over the city's financial problems according to Moskovsky Komsomolets on 25 May. However, the official newspaper Rossiiskie vesti reported on 26 May that in recent weeks, Luzhkov has patched up relations with the federal government and can easily "find a common language" with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. Rossiiskie vesti argued that "whatever one may think of Luzhkov," the mayor helps maintain stability in the capital and is therefore too important a political figure to "simply leave the scene." President Both Yeltsin and Luzhkov recently have denied rumors of Luzhkov's imminent dismissal. In a televised interview on 24 May, Yeltsin said, "I do not know a better mayor in Russia," Interfax reported the next day. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. COMMISSION REJECTS YELTSIN'S MAIN AMENDMENTS TO DUMA ELECTORAL LAW. The conciliatory commission, bringing together representatives of the president, State Duma, and Federation Council, agreed to maintain the Duma version of the electoral law preserving the current division of 225 seats to be determined by party list and 225 by single-member district, although it recommended an increase in regional influence on the party lists, Russian and Western agencies reported on 25 May. Vladimir Isakov, co-chairman of the Duma delegation, said most commission members support the Duma proposal to peg the necessary voter turnout for the elections to be considered valid at 25%, rather than the Yeltsin proposal of 50%. The commission supported a presidential proposal to allow civil servants to continue their jobs while campaigning but said it will propose an amendment to prevent them from using government-issue cars and official access to the media for campaigning purposes. The commission is scheduled to reconvene on 5 June. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. MORE ACCUSATIONS AGAINST CENTRAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION. An article in the 21-28 May edition of Moskovskie novosti accused the Central Electoral Commission (TsIK) of dragging its feet on requests to disclose full returns from the December 1993 elections and referendum on the constitution. Duma deputies from Russia's Choice, the Communist Party, and Yabloko have asked the commission to release the relevant figures. With new parliamentary elections looming, the author wrote, the deputies are particularly anxious to learn whether fraud took place in 1993, and if so, how to prevent the use of similar techniques this year. Although ballots were destroyed long ago, vote rigging could be discerned by comparing the aggregate local returns (still stored in the commission's archives) with final regional figures published by the commission. Moskovskie novosti suggested that the commission's reluctance to comply with Duma requests indicates "something is rotten there." -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIAN ENVIRONMENTAL MOVEMENT SUFFERING CRISIS. The Russian environmental movement will be unable to participate in the parliamentary elections as an independent party according to participants in a conference entitled "Ecological Policy and Peace- Making Processes in the Former Soviet Union," Interfax reported. Instead, Russia's green movement plans to provide voters with information about the ecological programs of the various political parties in order to inform them who genuinely cares about the environment and who is engaging in campaign rhetoric, Grigory Khozin of the Diplomatic Academy's Global Problems Center said on 25 May. He said the greens will be ready to participate directly in the parliamentary elections four years from now. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. MOSCOW MUFTI CRITICIZED. The director general of the Russian Islamic Cultural Fund, Abdel Vakhed Niyazov, publicly criticized Ravil Gainutdin, identified by Interfax as the Mufti of the Moscow Mosque, for abuse of power and violating shariah norms, Interfax reported on 25 May. On behalf of several Islamic and national cultural organizations in Moscow, Niyazov read out a statement at a press conference the same day, condemning the Mufti for "illegally dismissing" two imams, "transforming the house of Islam into a private office," and dividing visiting Muslims into "ours" and "foreign ones." Nafigulla Ashirov, chairman of the supreme coordinating center of the Muslim Spiritual Board, said the conflict began because of Gainutdin's openly pro-government position, the aspirations of other muftis for greater independence, and the Chechen war. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. OSCE CHECHNYA TALKS COLLAPSE. The OSCE-mediated talks in Grozny between representatives of the federal authorities, Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev, and the Chechen government of national salvation broke up after three hours, when the Russian delegation, headed by Nikolai Semyonov, walked out, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported. The talks may resume "after preliminary consultations," according to Chechen chief of staff Movladi Udugov, who said the Russians had been "unprepared" for negotiations, the agencies reported. Udugov further stated that the Chechen presidential delegation had demanded an immediate withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya and the creation of internationally-controlled safe zones. Semyonov said the talks had merely been "suspended" to allow for consultation with military commanders, according to ITAR-TASS. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. CONSTITUTIONAL COURT TO HEAR CASE ON CHECHNYA. Constitutional Court Chairman Vladimir Tumanov announced that despite legal flaws in the documents submitted to it, the court will consider the Federation Council's request concerning the constitutionality of secret presidential and government decrees on Chechnya, Interfax reported on 25 May. Tumanov expressed surprise that the Council ignored the court's instructions to attach copies of the decrees in question to its appeal. However, he said the court would overlook the Council's error so as not to be accused of "procrastination" on the controversial Chechnya case. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. MILITARY PROCUREMENT BUDGET APPROVED. The Russian government approved "about 10 trillion rubles" for the 1995 defense order at a 25 May meeting, Finance Minister Vladimir Panskov told ITAR-TASS. The money will be earmarked for paying off last year's debts, purchasing new equipment, and as advance payments for 1996 weapons deliveries. Panskov said it would be up to the Defense Ministry to decide "whether to buy military hardware or uniforms." In 1994, the defense order amounted to 8 trillion rubles (about $2 billion). The agency said it had learned from "well-informed sources" that no fighter aircraft will be purchased in 1995. Aircraft manufacturers will have to depend on foreign orders. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. DISSIDENT OFFICER SEEKS REINSTATEMENT. Lt. Col. Stanislav Terekhov, leader of the right-wing Officers' Union, told Interfax on 25 May that the legal proceedings in his battle to be reinstated in the armed forces had resumed. Defense Minister Pavel Grachev discharged Terekhov following his participation in the 1993 attack on the headquarters of the CIS joint armed forces. A military court of the Moscow Military District has twice ruled that Terekhov's discharge was illegal, but the case has been appealed to the Military Board of the Supreme Court by the chief military prosecutor. Terekhov told the agency that he was "calling on mass media, officers, and the patriotic public for support." -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. CHERNOMYRDIN TURNS DOWN INVESTMENT PROGRAM. At a 25 May cabinet meeting to discuss economic and financial stabilization, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin refused to approve a program to encourage domestic and foreign investment in 1995-97, Interfax reported. Chernomyrdin sharply criticized the authors of the program--including First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais (castigated yesterday in the official Rossiiskaya gazeta on a different topic) and Economics Minister Yevgeny Yasin--on the grounds that it was too general. They were given a month to submit a radically revised plan. According to Labor Minister Gennady Melikyan, investment in industry in the first four months of this year is down 35% on the same period of 1994. Overall investment in 1994 was down 26% compared to 1993. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. BUDGET HIT BY OFFICIAL CORRUPTION. The 1995 budget has been undermined by misspending, Finance Minister Vladimir Panskov said on 25 May. "Expenditure has exceeded limits during the first few months of the year...administrations often waste credits from the government," he said, according to AFP. He added that last year, the ministry uncovered cases involving the improper use of state funds, embezzlement, and tax evasion that resulted in losses of hundreds of billions of rubles, Interfax reported. He named the Federal Employment Service and the Nationalities Ministry as the worst offenders. Panskov also said large sums earmarked for supplies for the Far North had been diverted into private accounts and that funding for regional programs might be stopped if such abuses continued. Meanwhile, in another development that strained the budget, the Duma extended foreign trade preferences for the Sports Fund until 1 July. Duma Budget Committee Chairman Mikhail Zadornov said that would cost about $285 million, Segodnya reported. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. CENTRAL BANK TO INTRODUCE 100,000-RUBLE NOTE. On 30 May, the Central Bank will introduce a 100,000-ruble note, worth about $20, Russian and Western agencies reported on 25 May. At present, the brown 50,000-ruble note, introduced in 1993, is the largest in circulation. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. MIDDLE EAST PRIORITY FOR RUSSIAN ARMS SALES. Stanislav Filin, Deputy Director of Rosvooruzheniye, the scandal-ridden state company responsible for Russia's arms sales, confirmed that the Middle East market, particularly Persian Gulf countries, is a priority region for Russia, Interfax reported on 25 May. He noted that Russia had recently been able to expand the Russian presence in that market and downplayed the importance of declining arms sales to Eastern Europe. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA TROUBLE IN TAJIK TALKS. Negotiations aimed at stopping the violence in Tajikistan hit a snag on 25 May, Interfax and Western agencies reported. The opposition power-sharing proposal envisioned an administration in which the current government would take 40% of the positions, 40% would go to the opposition, and 20% to ethnic minorities in Tajikistan. Representatives from the Dushanbe government called the proposal unacceptable but made no counter proposal. Opposition leader Ali Akbar Turadzhonzoda said the opposition's proposal was timed to coincide with a meeting of the CIS heads of state in Minsk. Turadzhonzoda was in Bishkek where he handed Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev a letter to be read at the meeting, Interfax reported. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc. NIYAZOV IN EGYPT, ISRAEL. Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov and his Egyptian counterpart, Hosni Mubarak, signed four bilateral cooperation accords and agreed to open embassies in each other's countries, during talks on 23 May, AFP reported on 24 May. The next day, Niyazov traveled to Israel where he met with his Israeli counterpart, Ezer Weizman, as well as Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres for talks focusing on bilateral economic relations. Israel and Turkmenistan have had diplomatic relations since 1993; last year Turkmenistan's deputy prime minister visited Jerusalem and Shimon Peres visited Ashkhabad. Numerous cooperation accords have been signed to date. Israel is involved in a $100 million irrigation project in Turkmenistan and a scheme to build a gas pipeline from that country to Turkey. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. CIS KUCHMA SAID TO HAVE SUGGESTED CHANGES IN FLEET AGREEMENTS. In a recent message to President Yeltsin, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma suggested changes to the principles that Russian and Ukrainian leaders have already agreed on regarding the division of the former Soviet Black Sea Fleet, according to "trustworthy sources" quoted by ITAR-TASS on 25 May. Yeltsin has instructed his aides to study them. The two are expected to discuss the impasse over the fleet at the Minsk CIS summit. The sources said one of Kuchma's suggestions was that the [Russian] Black Sea Fleet would not have "bases" in Ukraine, but rather a "series of separate installations, including one in Sevastopol." -- Doug Clarke, 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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