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No. 120, Part I, 21 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 Daily Digest, and other information about OMRI, are available through our WWW pages: http://www.omri.cz/OMRI.html RUSSIA BUDENNOVSK GUNMEN ARRIVE IN CHECHNYA. After a tortuous journey, including several long delays, the convoy of buses carrying Chechen fighters led by Shamil Basaev arrived at its destination, international and Russian agencies reported on 21 June. Upon arrival at Zandak, in the Vedeno region of Chechnya, Basaev released the "volunteers" who had accompanied his fighters as a guarantee of safe passage. Basaev and his men then retreated into the surrounding mountains, fulfilling his agreement with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. On 20 June, Stavropol Region Deputy Procurator General Alexei Selyukov told journalists that a warrant had been issued for the arrest of Basaev on charges of "banditry." -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. GROZNY TALKS REACH AGREEMENT ON CEASEFIRE. Russian and Chechen negotiators in Grozny have agreed to terms for a ceasefire, Interfax reported on 20 June. Arkady Volsky, a member of the Russian delegation, told journalists that a three-day ceasefire would go into effect on 21 June. The talks also reportedly made progress on the terms of military disengagement between the two sides. A spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry told journalists that while federal troops have "scrupulously" observed the cessation of hostilities negotiated between Russian Prime Minister Chernomyrdin and Chechen leader Shamil Basaev, Chechen forces launched several attacks on the night of 19-20 June, causing casualties on both sides. Negotiations are scheduled to continue on 21 June. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. PUBLIC OPINION ON BUDENNOVSK EVENTS. A poll published on 21 June in Komsomolskaya Pravda revealed significant differences in outlook between Muscovites and residents of the Stavropol Region. When asked who bore responsibility for the recent attack on Budennovsk, 81% of Muscovites responded, "the Russian Government," while only 50% of those from Stavropol responded similarly. Half of Stavropol residents agreed with the statement that the government should intensify military activity against Chechen forces, while in Moscow, only 20% supported such a solution. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. ANALYSIS OF GOVERNMENT, SOCIAL RESPONSE TO BUDENNOVSK. Yegor Gaidar, leader of Russia's Democratic Choice, criticized Yeltsin's handling of the Budennovsk crisis, Interfax reported on 20 June. For two days the president and prime minister acted as if the other did not exist at all, according to Moskovsky komsomolets on 20 June. There is no evidence that the president even met with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin on his return from Canada, according to the newspaper. In Izvestiya on 21 June, Marietta Chudokova, a member of the presidential council, noted that people were not protesting the war before the terrorist attack. "Now in Krasnodar Krai there are demonstrations almost around the clock, but why didn't people come out on the streets earlier, much earlier?" Izvestiya also noted that the government saved hundreds of lives through negotiations with people it had earlier considered "bandits" and that it is now clear that talks should have been held from the beginning. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. MIGRATION SERVICE REPORTS ON CHECHEN REFUGEES. On 20 June, the Russian Federal Migration Service told Interfax that over 380,000 refugees have fled Chechnya since federal troops entered the republic in December 1994. Over 80,000 refugees had already left Chechnya before the conflict began. Mikhail Arutunov, the deputy chairman of the Presidential Commission on Human Rights, told Interfax there are currently 800,000 people in Russia who are officially registered as refugees or displaced persons. Independent human rights activists believe the actual number of refugees to be higher. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. TEREK COSSACKS CREATE MILITIA. Terek Cossacks in the Pyatigorsk district of the Stavropol region formed a militia of approximately 5000 soldiers to defend against "armed bandits" in the wake of the Budennovsk hostage crisis, Terek Cossack Ataman Yury Churekov told Ekho Moskvy on 20 June. Deputy Ataman Evgeny Klyuchkin told Radio Rossii that the militia will blockade all roads from Chechnya and Ingushetiya so as not to allow "a single Chechen" into Russia. On 19 June, a presidential representative said the enlistment of armed volunteers by Terek Cossacks was illegal, Interfax reported. On the same day, Duma deputy Viktor Zorkaltsev of the committee for public and religious groups also denounced plans to create Cossack units outside the Russian armed forces. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. FURTHER DEVELOPMENTS ON NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE. Most members of Russia's Choice will abstain from the no-confidence vote, according to Duma member Viktor Pokhmelkin, Interfax reported. The Agrarian Party will support a vote of no confidence in the government, the parliamentary faction decided on 20 June. However, Vladimir Isakov, chairman of the Committee on Constitutional Legislation and an Agrarian Party member, proposed instead to amend the constitution to give parliament the power to approve the president's appointment of deputy prime ministers and power ministers. At present, the Duma only has the power to approve the appointment of the prime minister. The amendment would also give it the power to pass no-confidence votes in individual ministers as well as the whole cabinet. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. AIDE: REGIONS SHOULD ELECT LEADERS ONLY AFTER PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS. President Yeltsin's deputy chief of staff Vyacheslav Volkov said regional elections for executive authorities should not be held until after the June 1996 presidential elections, Interfax reported on 20 June. Volkov said early regional elections would threaten stability on the eve of presidential elections. He added that federal legislation is needed before regional administrative heads can be elected, except in exceptional cases. On 11 May, Yeltsin issued a decree allowing the Sverdlovsk region to hold gubernatorial elections this August. Administrative heads have been elected in 22 of Russia's 89 regions. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. MOSKOVSKY KOMSOMOLETS CYNICAL ABOUT PENSION INCREASES. Commenting on the Federation Council's recent approval of the draft law which will increase monthly pensions to 52,486 rubles (about $12), Moskovsky komsomolets claimed in a 17 June article that the elderly might never see the increase. Already the government has promised to allot an extra 7 trillion rubles, which the Pension Fund does not have. The commentary noted that while their is no money for pensioners, teachers, veterans, disabled persons, and single mothers, the government had no problem finding 11 trillion rubles to spend on "security" (military operations in Chechnya). -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. DIPHTHERIA RATE DOUBLES FROM 1994. More than 13,000 cases of diphtheria were registered in the first four months of 1994 in Russia, 4,843 of them children under 14 years of age, Interfax reported on 20 June. Yevgeny Belyaev, the chairman of the State Committee for Sanitation, said the number of diphtheria cases has doubled in comparison with the same period last year and he attributed the outbreak to a lack of vaccinations. Large-scale vaccination programs have been weakly enforced since 1990, which led to the outburst of the disease in 1991, later developing into an epidemic. The government is now taking steps to encourage vaccinations. According to Belyaev, 14.5 million children and 43.2 million adults (66.7% of the adult population) were vaccinated in 1993 and 1994. Last year, 88.1% of infants under the age of one were vaccinated, he said. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. CENTRAL BANK LOWERS REFINANCING RATE TO 180%. The Central Bank of Russia lowered the refinancing rate at which it extends credits to commercial banks from 195% to 180%, the bank's chairwoman, Tatyana Paramonova, told Russian agencies on 20 June. The bank lowered the rate from 200% to 195% on 16 May in an effort to encourage commercial banks to invest in industry. In international practice, refinancing rates are usually lowered in order to check any rapid strengthening of the national currency and thus assist exporters. In the Russian situation, however, the move is expected to have very little impact on the currency market, Financial Information Agency experts noted. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. PAKISTAN TO BUY RUSSIAN HELICOPTERS. A Russian Defense Ministry delegation is in Islamabad to work out the details on the sale of 40 military helicopters to Pakistan, the Chinese Xinua news agency reported on 18 June. The agency also quoted Pakistani Defense Minister Aftab Shaban Mirani as saying that the Russian Su-27 jet fighter was among three foreign aircraft being considered for the Pakistani air force if the U.S. does not release the F-16 fighters Pakistan purchased several years ago. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. STATE-OWNED ENTERPRISES SLATED FOR SALE IN AUTUMN. The Russian government plans to begin the early sale of large packages of enterprise shares which were supposed to remain state property until 1996-97, Sergei Belyaev, the chairman of the State Property Committee, told Interfax on 20 June. The chairman said the sale of government-owned stock in industrial facilities will increase state revenues. Revenue from privatization this year is expected to total 9.1 trillion rubles ($2.02 billion). -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. METAL PRODUCERS CONTEMPLATE SLASHING EXPORTS. Russian metal producers will slash their exports if the ruble continues to strengthen against the U.S. dollar, Metal Industry Committee experts said on 20 June, Interfax reported. The rising ruble means that less money will come in from metal exports, a main source of funding for metal enterprise production. Metal prices within Russia are roughly equal to world market prices, but the low solvency of potential Russian customers forces metal producers to export about half of their output, mainly to countries outside the CIS. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA CONTROVERSIAL SHEVARDNADZE ASSOCIATE ASSASSINATED. Soliko Khabeishvili, a close friend of Georgian parliament chairman Eduard Shevardnadze and chairman of the Revival and Democracy Fund founded by the latter, died in a Tbilisi hospital on 20 June after being shot by unidentified gunmen outside his home earlier that day, Interfax reported. Khabeishvili served as Georgian Communist Party Central Committee secretary for industry in the early 1980s when Shevardnadze was party first secretary. Following Shevardnadze's appointment as Soviet foreign minister in 1985, Khabeishvili was removed from his post and put on trial for large-scale bribery and corruption. He received a 15-year sentence. The circumstances of his premature release are not known. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. UZBEKISTAN PRESSED ON HUMAN RIGHTS. In welcoming Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov to Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher acknowledged that Uzbekistan had made progress on human rights and political reform but said more is needed, Reuters reported on 20 June. A memorandum of understanding permitting U.S. citizens to travel throughout Uzbekistan was signed by both sides; Uzbekistan has also agreed to permit the establishment of an OSCE mission to monitor human rights in Tashkent. -- 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 OMRI 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 Daily Digest. For Transition subscription information send an e-mail to TRANSITION@OMRI.CZ Copyright (C) 1995 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved.
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