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No. 104, Part I, 30 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 DUMA COMMITTEE ON BOSNIAN CRISIS. The Duma Committee for International Affairs has condemned NATO action in Bosnia-Herzegovina, dubbing the air attacks of 25 and 26 May, and NATO's presence in general, a measure that "only aggravates the situation and complicates the search for peaceful ways to settle the Yugoslav crisis," Interfax reported on 29 May. The committee also observed that while it was "far from justifying uncivilized Serb operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina...the decision of NATO to bomb the positions on one side of the conflict represents a challenge to peace efforts." -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc. KOZYREV CONDEMNS "BARBARITY." Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev said Moscow "can no longer tolerate barbarity as regards peacekeepers in Bosnia," Interfax reported. Nevertheless, the minister also stood firm on his government's conviction that "shrinking from real work with Belgrade, double standards in evaluating the actions of the conflicting sides, [and] NATO bombing, although [carried out with] UN consent, does nothing but aggravate the situation." Kozyrev met with his Contact Group counterparts on 29 May in The Hague, where he outlined his opposition to a withdrawal of UN peacekeepers from Bosnia-Herzegovina. Meanwhile, the Belgrade daily Nasa Borba reported the following day that Russian special envoy Alexander Zotov has finally arrived in the Serbian capital for talks. No Russian troops have been taken prisoner or hurt in the former Yugoslavia, according to Interfax citing Russian Airborne Troop Commander Yevgeny Podkolzin. However, Nasa Borba reported that 37 ethnic Russians are among the prisoners currently being held by the Bosnian Serbs. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc. KHASBULATOV CALLS FOR CHECHEN CEASEFIRE. Addressing the Russian parliament hearings on human rights violations in Chechnya on 29 May, former Russian parliament speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov called for an immediate ceasefire in Chechnya, Interfax reported. He said that should be followed by the withdrawal of Russian federal troops whose presence, he argued, creates tension throughout the North Caucasus. Khasbulatov's attempt to find common ground in the fall of 1994 with Chechen opposition leader Umar Avturkhanov ended in failure. Since then, Khasbulatov has maintained his distance from the pro-Russian government of national salvation in Grozny. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. AGRARIAN PARTY COUNCIL DISCUSSES ELECTION PLANS . . . Following a plenum of the Agrarian Party council, party chairman Mikhail Lapshin pledged to coordinate campaigns for parliamentary seats in single-member constituencies with Gennady Zyuganov's Communist Party, Pravda reported on 30 May. The platform developed at the plenum rejects the policies of the "wild market," including planned reforms allowing the sale of land to "large private landowners." Lapshin said "only the revival of the villages can save Russia." -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. . . . AND BEHAVIOR OF SOME LEADING MEMBERS. At the same plenum, regional representatives expressed dissatisfaction with some of the Agrarian Party's most prominent members, Sovetskaya Rossiya reported on 30 May. The council asked Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zaveryukha and Agriculture Minister Alexander Nazarchuk why they had not done more to draw leaders of regional agricultural organizations into the Agrarian Party. Party members also questioned the recent behavior of Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin, who has made ambiguous statements concerning his possible leadership of a center-left electoral bloc. Rybkin did not appear at the council plenum. Although he still describes himself as a member of the Agrarian leadership, since early May he has missed several meetings with other party leaders. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. LETTER ACCUSING CHERNOMYRDIN BLOC FORGED. A forged letter accusing leaders of Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's bloc, Our Home Is Russia, of direct contacts with criminals was circulated in the Duma, Segodnya reported on 27 May. The letter was allegedly written by Union of Journalists chairman Vsevolod Bogdanov, but Bogdanov called it a "complete fraud." Segodnya noted that Duma Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin passed the letter on to the Prosecutor General's Office without bothering to confirm its authenticity. The incident follows a series of recent allegations against Chernomyrdin and his bloc. On 26 May, Boris Fedorov, leader of "Forward, Russia!," said Chernomyrdin became one of Russia's ten richest men after receiving Gazprom stock worth up to $1 billion in the company's privatization, Ekho Moskvy reported. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. DUMA BY-ELECTION IN YEKATERINBURG INVALID. A 28 May by-election for a Duma seat in Yekaterinburg was declared invalid due to a turnout of only 9% of eligible voters, Russian TV reported on 29 May. A turnout of at least 25% was required to make the election valid. The Central Electoral Commission told Interfax the same day that the by-election cost the commission 1 billion rubles ($200,000), not including what the three candidates themselves spent on the campaign. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIA FOR NATO PARTNERSHIP. Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev said on 30 May in the Netherlands that Russia will follow its individual partnership program within NATO's Partnership for Peace, international agencies reported the same day. He is also expected to endorse a second document outlining a special consultative arrangement between NATO and Russia. However, Kozyrev told ITAR-TASS that NATO's enlargement "does not conform either with Russia's national security interests or with the interests of European security." He said forcing the issue might threaten further ties with the Western alliance. Kozyrev called for the creation of an "effective non-bloc model of European security." -- Doug Clark and Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. TURKEY, TATARSTAN SIGN AGREEMENT. Tatarstan and Turkey signed an agreement in Ankara on 28 May dealing with trade, economic, scientific, technical, and cultural cooperation, Interfax reported the next day. Tatarstan Prime Minister Farid Muhametshin described the agreement as a "historic document" which upgrades bilateral relations. The agreements will pave the way for Tatarstan to open a mission in Ankara and encourage trade relations. In 1994, trade with Turkey--valued at $39 million--represented 5% of Tatarstan's overall trade. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. GOSKOMSTAT ANNOUNCES SLIGHT ECONOMIC IMPROVEMENT. Russia's economy is showing signs of growth, but inflation is still high, Goskomstat chairman Yury Yurkov announced at a press conference with Russian and Western agencies on 29 May. The chairman said both GDP and industrial output have grown 1% since May 1994. Despite that rise, figures for the first five months of 1995 show a decline; GDP fell 3% and industrial output 5% compared to the same period of 1994. Yurkov said inflation is falling, but not rapidly enough. The inflation rate in May will not be 5-6% as predicted but 7.5-8%. Monthly inflation has fallen sharply from levels of almost 20% since January, but economists contend that to hold the rate down, Russia must follow a tight monetary policy and reject pressure from lobby groups for cash. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. SHADOW ECONOMY ACCOUNTS FOR OVER 20% OF GDP. Russia's shadow economy, defined as goods concealed by producers in order to evade taxes, accounts for 20-22% of the total GDP, Goskomstat chairman Yurkov told Interfax on 29 May. Yurkov also said that from January to April 1995, Russian residents spent 37.5 trillion rubles ($7.3 billion at the April rate) on buying foreign currency, primarily U.S. dollars. However, residents spent much less money on buying hard currency in May due to the ruble's rise against the dollar. Ruble stability against the U.S. dollar could help cut inflationary pressures because it would increase the cost of imported goods which comprise a growing share of Russia's consumer basket. The ruble was flat at 5,019 to $1 in 29 May MICEX trading. The currency has risen 2% in May and is currently trading well above April's all-time low of 5,130 rubles to $1. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. LEGAL PROBLEMS OF ARMS COMPANY DELAYS EXPORTS. The director general of the state-owned Rosvooruzheniye arms export company told a Moscow news conference on 29 May that the instigation of criminal proceedings against the company had already provoked delays in implementing several contracts totaling $108 million, Interfax reported. The official would not identify the countries involved, but said the contracts are for BMP- 3 infantry fighting vehicles, various armored personnel carriers, and Mi-17 helicopters. Rosvooruzheniye has been charged with tax evasion, and some buyers are said to have suspended payments on deals while waiting for the legal investigation to be completed. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA SHEVARDNADZE ON ABKHAZIA, SOUTH OSSETIA. In his regular Monday radio broadcast, Georgian parliament chairman Eduard Shevardnadze said the decision taken at the CIS Minsk summit on 26 May to extend the CIS peacekeeping mandate in Abkhazia to the end of 1995, constituted "a landmark" in the quest for a settlement to the Abkhaz conflict, Interfax reported. He added that Georgian Defense Minister Vardiko Nadibaidze will travel to Moscow to help draw up "a program of action" for the peacekeeping force. Shevardnadze also told journalists in Tbilisi on 29 May that during talks on 27 May with North Ossetian President Akhsarbek Galazov on the situation in South Ossetia, the two men had agreed to create a team of experts who will lay the ground for talks between Georgian and South Ossetian representatives scheduled for June. The talks will deal with the return of refugees, the disarmament of illegal units, and a resolution to South Ossetia's economic problems. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. ALIEV CONFIRMS HELSINKI TALKS. Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev confirmed that talks on Nagorno-Karabakh would be held in Helsinki in mid-June, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 May. Speaking at a meeting with Vladimir Kazimirov, Russian co-chairman of the OSCE Minsk conference on Nagorno-Karabakh, Aliev said he had reached an understanding on this point with Armenian President Levon-Ter-Petrossyan at the Minsk summit of CIS states. Last week, Armenia said it would not participate in the talks unless it received security guarantees for its energy supplies following an attack on a pipeline which cut its natural gas supplies. The pipeline in question has since been repaired. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. IRAN CUTS ELECTRICITY TO NAKHICHEVAN. Claiming non-payment for power supplied in the past, Iran stopped delivering electricity to Nakhichevan, Western agencies reported on 29 May. Reuters, citing the Iranian daily Kar va Karga, noted that Azerbaijan owes Iran $10 million for electricity; AFP, citing Iranian officials, reported that Azerbaijan owes $6 million for power delivered to Nakhichevan. An accord for Iran to supply 60% of the electricity needs of Nakhichevan has been in effect since December 1992; the present cut-off is likely connected to Azerbaijan's early April decision to cancel a deal allowing Iran to participate in the international consortium which is to develop offshore oil fields in the Caspian Sea. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. CIS UKRAINE OFFERS NEW PROPOSALS ON BLACK SEA FLEET. In a letter to President Yeltsin, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma has proposed that the two sides abandon the principle of separate basing for their shares of the Black Sea Fleet and use separate installations instead, according to issue no. 97 of Moskovskaya pravda. The paper noted that the proposal is essentially the same as using bases. Kuchma said Ukraine is ready to sign a treaty with Russia so that the two parts of the fleet can function normally as national navies, but not at the expense of Ukrainian territory, Ostankino reported on 29 May. The two presidents are to meet in Sochi on 9 June to continue negotiations over the fleet. -- 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. 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