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No. 109, Part I, 6 June 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 OMRI Daily Digest, and other information about OMRI, are available through our WWW pages: http://www.omri.cz/OMRI.html RUSSIA ELECTION WATCHDOG ORGANIZATION CREATED. Politicians from several democratic parties and movements founded the watchdog organization "For Honest Elections," Russian TV reported on 5 June. Yabloko member Viktor Sheinis said the group will set up its own network of election observers to supervise vote counting, so that the official results of the December parliamentary elections reflect the actual voting. Yegor Gaidar of Russia' s Democratic Choice, Telman Gdlyan of the People' s Party of Russia, Vasily Lipitsky of the Civic Union, Irina Khakamada of Common Cause, and Gleb Yakunin of Democratic Russia also helped found the watchdog group. -- Laura Belin, Copyright(c)1995 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. NEW CRACKDOWN ON INFORMATION FROM CHECHNYA? One American and two French journalists who spent three weeks reporting from separatist-held areas in southern Chechnya were arrested while crossing the border into Dagestan, AFP reported on 5 June. Dagestani Interior Ministry officials reportedly told the journalists they would be turned over to Russian military authorities. Meanwhile, on 3 June security officers at Moscow' s Sheremetevo airport searched Democratic Union leader Valeriya Novodvorskaya and Party of Economic Freedom chairman Konstantin Borovoi. Novodvorskaya and Borovoi were on their way to address the European Parliament in Luxembourg, and the airport officers seized a videocassette allegedly containing evidence of human rights violations in Chechnya. On 5 June, the Glasnost Protection Fund denounced the government' s "illegal" attempts to control information about the Chechen events, Interfax reported. -- Laura Belin, Copyright(c)1995 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. NO LETTER FROM LEBED AT PRESIDENT' S OFFICE. Presidential spokesman Sergei Medvedev and national security adviser Yury Bakhtin said no letter of resignation or personal message from 14th Army Commander Lt. Gen. Alexander Lebed had reached the president' s headquarters, Interfax reported on 5 June. Defense Minister Pavel Grachev signed Lebed' s resignation letter on 1 June, and Defense Ministry officials said they had forwarded the letter to the president' s office. Unnamed Kremlin sources told Interfax that President Yeltsin needs more time to decide whether to accept Lebed' s resignation. -- Laura Belin, Copyright(c)1995 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. CONCILIATORY COMMISSION FAILS TO COMPROMISE ON DUMA ELECTORAL LAW. The conciliatory commission failed to agree to provisions of the Duma electoral law in its meeting on 5 June, Interfax reported. The Federation Council representatives agreed with the Duma proposal to maintain the current proportion of 225 deputies elected by party list and 225 elected from single-mandate districts, but called for a number of amendments restricting the party lists. The upper house suggested that no region be allowed more than 30% of the slots on the party list (to limit the number of candidates from Moscow) and that deputies running simultaneously on the party list and in single-mandate districts be required to gather signatures in support of their candidacy. Candidates in the single-member districts must collect signatures from 1% of the voters in their district. The Duma representatives agreed to the latter proposal but refused to introduce a regional limit on party list candidates. The commission will resume its deliberations on 8 June. -- Robert Orttung, Copyright(c)1995 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. RUSSIA WANTS UN SANCTIONS ON IRAQ LIFTED. Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz met with Russian officials in Moscow on 5 June, Interfax and Western agencies reported. Following a meeting between Aziz and Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev, a high-ranking Russian diplomat said the session produced "very positive and encouraging results." He added that Russia is waiting "impatiently" for UN sanctions to be lifted. In the same vein, Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Davydov noted that Russia is ready to launch $10 billion in energy projects in Iraq as soon as sanctions are removed. The Kozyrev-Aziz meeting focused on the forthcoming report of the UN commission for the disarmament of Iraq, scheduled to be issued on 19 June. If the report indicates that Iraq is making progress in compliance with UN resolutions, Russia will urge the softening and eventual removal of sanctions, according to Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Viktor Posuvalyuk. -- Scott Parrish, Copyright(c)1995 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. RUSSIA UNEASY ABOUT POSSIBLE NATO ACTION IN BOSNIA. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin declared on 5 June that Russia opposes NATO playing an "independent role" in the Bosnian conflict, Interfax reported. He added that the UN should retain responsibility for operations in Bosnia. Karasin' s statement was the latest Russian reaction to NATO' s recent decision to create a "rapid reaction force" to protect UN peacekeepers in Bosnia. On the same day, a Russian diplomat at the UN told Interfax that any decision to send NATO troops to Bosnia to help the peacekeepers would have to be approved by the UN Security Council. He also warned that Russia might use its veto power to block such a move -- Scott Parrish, Copyright(c)1995 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. DOLLAR DROPS TO TWO MONTH LOW AGAINST RUBLE. The U.S. dollar fell to 4,900 rubles to $1 in MICEX trading on 5 June, its lowest level against the ruble since March, Russian and Western agencies reported. Russia' s Central Bank bought $60 million to help close a gap between supply and demand. Traders indicated that the dollar drop probably left the ruble overvalued, given high Russian inflation rates, but the government appeared determined to talk positively about the currency. Earlier this year the dollar rose consistently against the ruble, breaking the 5,000 mark in April and reaching 5,130 rubles on 29 April. After holding steady for about a week, the dollar began slipping and fell back below the 5,000 level on 30 May. -- Thomas Sigel, Copyright(c)1995 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. CHUBAIS ANNOUNCES SIGNS OF ECONOMIC STABILIZATION. Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais told regional officials from Siberia and the Far East that Russia' s economy is on the verge of stabilizing, Russian and Western agencies reported on 5 June. The minister attributed the improvement to decreasing inflation, rising currency reserves in the Central Bank of Russia, and decreasing interest rates. He also noted growth in industrial output. Meanwhile, appearing on NTV on 5 June, Central Bank Chairwoman Tatyana Paramonova said the significant rise in the value of the ruble is due to the government' s economic policies. She denied claims that the bank was intervening to support the ruble. -- Thomas Sigel, Copyright(c)1995 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. SOCIAL PROBLEMS REMAIN. While the government has been upbeat about progress in financial stabilization during the first five months of the year, it acknowledges that serious problems remain in the social sphere. According to Rossiiskaya gazeta on 6 June, real incomes fell by almost 5% this year in comparison with the first five months of 1994. Only 38.4% of total personal income came from wages, compared with 52.3% from January to May 1994. The average monthly wage ($78 in April 1995) was 11.3 times the minimum wage. The situation was worst for workers paid from the state budget, whose wages were often late as well as low. The richest 10% of the population receive one third of total income, and earn 13.3 times what the poorest 10% earned (compared with 12.4 times during the same period last year.) About 45 million people live in families whose average per capita income is below the poverty line. The number of officially registered unemployed in May was 2.2 million, or 2.4% of the working population. -- Penny Morvant, Copyright(c)1995 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. CHUBAIS ON STOCK MARKET FRAUD. First Deputy Prime Minister Chubais said on 5 June that the government intends to submit to the Duma amendments to the Criminal Code introducing criminal responsibility for stock market fraud. Offenders will be liable to between three and eight years in prison, Interfax reported. Chubais also said the government wants to increase the powers of the Commission on Securities and the Stock Market. -- Penny Morvant, Copyright(c)1995 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA REGIONAL CONFERENCE TO OPEN IN KYRGYZSTAN. The Central Asiatic Conference on Regional Cooperation is scheduled to begin on 12 June at the Issyk-Kul resort area in eastern Kyrgyzstan, according to Interfax. The agenda is scheduled to include discussions on increasing economic cooperation and preventing political and military conflicts. Participants will include representatives of the Russian Federation, Iran, Turkey, and UNESCO, as well as the Central Asian republics Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, Slovo Kyrgyzstana reported. -- Bruce Pannier, Copyright(c)1995 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. TAJIK GOVERNMENT SATISFIED WITH ALMATY TALKS. First Deputy Prime Minister Makhmadsaid Ubaidullaiyev, the leader of the Tajik government' s delegation at the Almaty talks, said he is pleased with the results of the latest round of negotiations between his government and the opposition, especially on the issue of the repatriation of refugees from Afghanistan. However, he added that "serious disagreements" persist in other areas. Ubaidullaiyev reiterated the government' s unwillingness to share power with the opposition and called the opposition' s demand for the removal of troops from the Gorno-Badakhshan region "unacceptable." He added, "We have been increasing and will be increasing our presence in Gorno-Badakhshan," according to Interfax. On 20 July the two sides will begin exchanging prisoners of war, on a one-for-one basis. For "humanitarian" reasons, the government has suspended the death sentences of some opposition members until the peace talks are concluded. -- Bruce Pannier, Copyright(c)1995 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. SECURITY COOPERATION BETWEEN AZERBAIJAN, RUSSIA. Azerbaijani National Security Minister Namig Abbasov and Russian Federal Security Service director Sergei Stepashin signed a cooperation agreement on 1 June, Interfax reported. The document provides for both countries to cooperate in personnel training, fighting organized crime and drug trafficking, and the establishment of a joint data bank. Abbasov praised Russia' s arrest of Nusret Bugdanov, allegedly a close associate of Suret Huseinov, for complicity in an attempted overthrow of the present government of Azerbaijan; he also hoped the new agreement will be instrumental in extraditing former top Azerbaijani officials residing in Moscow. However, Stepashin said Russia' s prosecutor general must issue warrants before any further arrests can be made. -- Lowell Bezanis, Copyright(c)1995 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. ALIEV TRANSFORMED? Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev is reported to have told Stepashin that he hoped the security agreement signed in Baku would contribute to bilateral cooperation with Russia in every field, Interfax reported on 5 June. Praising the CIS security cooperation agreement recently signed in Georgia, Aliev called for enhanced intra- CIS security cooperation and indicated that those who viewed the CIS as a non-starter were mistaken. He also said the CIS should evolve into a "kind of state," according to Interfax. The agreement itself and Aliev' s comments represent a shift in Baku' s earlier reluctant stance on CIS integration efforts and Russian regional and security interests. -- Lowell Bezanis, Copyright(c)1995 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. RAKHMONOV, KARIMOV TANGLE? Uzbek President Islam Karimov and his Tajik counterpart, Imomali Rakhmonov, were involved in "intense polemics" at the 26 May Minsk CIS summit, Segodnya reported on 30 May. Karimov called on Rakhmonov to show greater flexibility to reach a compromise with the opposition and said Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev was of the same opinion. According to Segodnya, Karimov told Rakhmonov "you should share your authority." Rakhmonov defended the constitutional nature of his rule and rejected outside interference. He said he had a "tough talk" with Tajik opposition leader Abdullah Nuri in Kabul last month and insinuated that mercenaries from Uzbekistan were fighting on the side of the rebels, according to Segodnya. -- Lowell Bezanis, Copyright(c)1995 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. CENTRAL ASIA, JAPAN AND GAS. Uzbek officials and the director of Japan' s Mitsubishi Corporation, Sinroku Morohase, held talks on the construction of a natural gas pipeline that will run through Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, China, the Korean Peninsula, and Japan, Interfax reported on 5 June. Construction is expected to begin in the year 2000; the total estimated cost of the project--which will move 18 billion cubic meters of gas per year initially--is $9.5 billion. Morohase held talks with Uzbekistan' s deputy prime ministers Kayum Khakkulov and Utkur Sultanov and President Karimov on the pipeline project and joint Uzbek-Japanese projects to modernize the Almalyk mining combine in the Tashkent province. He told Karimov Japan holds a positive view of Uzbekistan' s "special" reform path. -- Lowell Bezanis, Copyright(c)1995 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. CIS BLACK SEA FLEET APPARENTLY SHRINKNG. The headquarters of the Black Sea Fleet on 5 June gave Interfax a breakdown of the fleet' s strength, indicating that the fleet had lost nearly one-third of its most powerful assets during the past year. The inventory of all combat ships and support vessels totaled 840 compared with 894 counted in April 1994. In both years, the vast majority of the fleet was made up of support vessels and small, auxiliary ships. -- Doug Clarke, Copyright(c)1995 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. [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 OMRI Daily Digest. For Transition subscription information send an e-mail to TRANSITION@OMRI.CZ Copyright (c) Open Media Research Institute, Inc. 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