|Eat to live, and not live to eat. - Benjamin Franklin|
No. 125, Part I, 28 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 YELTSIN MEETS WITH DEPUTY GROUPS. President Boris Yeltsin met with representatives of all Duma factions except Yabloko on 27 June, Russian media reported. He told them that he will not make decisions on replacing ministers until 22 July, the last day of the parliament's summer session. He said that those decisions would be made on the basis of the Security Council meeting and State Duma confidence vote scheduled for this week. He later told a meeting of the leaders of Russia's regions and republics that the leaders of the Duma factions agreed to support the government in exchange for the sacking of the ministers who are mainly responsible for Chechnya. Yeltsin proposed the creation of a presidential commission on military reform that would include Duma members. He also proposed that in the future the Duma not take a confidence vote before consulting with him or discussing the matter in a conciliatory commission, Russian TV reported. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. PROCEDURAL COMPROMISE FOUND TO EASE GOVERNMENT CRISIS. Yegor Gaidar announced that President Yeltsin and the deputies had found a procedural compromise to make it easier for the Duma to support the government, Ekho Moskvy reported on 27 June. If the Duma fails to pass a second no- confidence motion on 1 July, then the government will withdraw its request that the Duma give it a positive vote of confidence. This procedural move will allow parties opposed to the policies of Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's government merely to abstain during the no-confidence vote, rather than actually having to vote for the government to avoid being disbanded by Yeltsin. The Agrarian Party, which initially voted no confidence in the government, also supported this compromise, according to Reuters. Interfax reported that no more than 140 deputies will vote against the government, mostly from among the Communists, Yabloko, the Liberal Democratic Party, and the Democratic Party of Russia. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. YELTSIN MEETS WITH DELEGATION FOR GROZNY TALKS. President Yeltsin met with Russian negotiators on 27 June before their departure for a second round of talks aimed at ending the Chechen conflict, Russian and international agencies reported. At the meeting, Yeltsin gave the Russian delegation authority to enter into political agreements with the Chechens, according to Arkady Volsky, one of the negotiators. The delegation had lacked such sweeping powers before, he added. Volsky said the next round of talks would be "difficult," but expressed optimism. Izvestiya noted on 28 June that Yeltsin's meeting with the delegation showed he had "taken personal control" of the negotiations. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. JUSTICE MINISTER PRAISES COSSACK UNITS. In an interview published in Rossiiskaya gazeta on 27 June, Justice Minister Valentin Kovalev praised initiatives among Cossacks in the North Caucasus to create armed units, which he said could defend against terrorist attacks and enforce law and order in the region. Following the Budennovsk hostage crisis, Terek Cossacks in the Stavropol region began organizing militias, despite a 19 June statement from a presidential representative that enlisting armed volunteers in such militias was illegal. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. YEGOROV DEFENDS ASSAULT ON BUDENNOVSK HOSPITAL. At a 27 June press conference, Deputy Interior Minister Mikhail Yegorov defended the controversial 17 June storming of the Budennovsk hospital by special forces, Russian television reported. "If I had to carry out such an operation again, I would have done it exactly as it was planned this time," he said. Yegorov added that Interior Minister Viktor Yerin and Prime Minister Chernomyrdin gave the order to storm the hospital. He said the operation had not been carried out poorly, and added that only 10 hostages had been killed by fire from Russian troops during the attack, not 30 as Chechen leader Shamil Basaev claimed. Yegorov criticized Chernomyrdin's subsequent decision to resolve the hostage crisis through negotiations, saying, "The terrorists should not have been allowed to leave the hospital." Instead, Yegorov argued, the operation to liberate the hostages by force should have been continued. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. CRITICISM OF PARLIAMENTARY IMMUNITY LAWS. An article in Argumenty i fakty (No. 25) criticized Russia's "absurd" laws on parliamentary immunity, which have allowed nearly 300 deputies nationwide to escape prosecution for serious crimes. The author cited cases of deputies from regional and district councils who committed crimes ranging from embezzlement to drunk driving and murder but could not be charged. He called on the Duma to support the efforts of deputy Vitaly Savitsky, who has twice proposed limits on immunity for elected officials. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. LAW ON JUDGES GOES INTO EFFECT. A new law to improve the independence and qualifications of judges went into effect upon its publication in the official newspaper Rossiiskaya gazeta on 27 June. Grigory Ivliev of the Duma Committee on Legislation and Legal Reforms said judges will now be required to have at least five years of experience in the legal profession. In addition, the law raises judges' salaries and changes retirement rules in order to attract the best jurists to the profession. Ivliev said some regions and republics had demanded the right to appoint their own judges, which he said would place judges' independence in doubt. Instead, under the new law local officials will be able to express their opinions before judges are appointed by the president, as the constitution requires. The law also will allow judges to keep and carry firearms for their own protection. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIA'S DEMOCRATIC CHOICE PARTY SHRINKING. Many people have left Russia's Democratic Choice Party, Yegor Gaidar, the party's leader, told Vechernaya Moskva on 27 June. He said it is as if they have been "sucked out by a huge vacuum cleaner. However, those who left were precisely the people about whom I have often wondered, 'How could I have been in the same party with them?'" He said that the party had become "better, although smaller." -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. POVERTY LEVEL INCREASES. A serious increase in the amount of people living under the poverty line in Russia brought the number to 47 million in May, ITAR-TASS reported on 27 June. In a seminar devoted to the country's social problems in Moscow, Deputy Prime Minister Yury Yarov said the situation is especially critical for Russia's pensioners because inflation is outpacing their monthly indexed pension payments. The minister said the problem could get even worse after Russian bankruptcy laws are finalized, causing more unemployment as more businesses and factories close. Meanwhile, the Economics Ministry forecasts the number of unemployed to increase by another 1.5 million, bringing the level to 4 million people by the end of the year, Russian TV reported. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. DOUBLE METHANE EXPLOSION IN KEMEROVO KILLS SEVEN. Two powerful methane explosions at the Krasnogorskaya mine in the Kemerovo Oblast killed four miners and three rescue workers on 25 June, Russian Public Radio and Segodnya reported on 27 June. Three miners were rescued and remain in critical condition in a local hospital. The mine has been closed and a special commission from the Russian Federation State Technical Committee is investigating the causes of the tragedy. This is the second double methane explosion in Russian mines this year. The previous accident was in Komi. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. FEDERATION COUNCIL SPEAKER CRITICIZES NATO. Speaking before a press conference in Bucharest, Vladimir Shumeiko, speaker of the Federation Council, told journalists that NATO should be abolished, not expanded, Russian and international agencies reported. Underlining Russian objections to the eastward expansion of the alliance, which he characterized as "against our interests," Shumeiko expressed doubts about the "pacifist character" of NATO, and contended that "a military bloc cannot be a fighter for peace." He added, "it would be better to discuss liquidating NATO." Shumeiko's remarks came at the end of a two- day visit to Romania, which was the first former Warsaw Pact country to join the NATO Partnership for Peace program. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. EUROPEAN UNION TO SIGN ACCORD WITH RUSSIA. At a meeting in Cannes, European Union (EU) leaders decided to move forward with an interim trade accord with Russia, Western agencies reported on 27 June. The EU had frozen the trade accord in January, as a protest against Russian military intervention in Chechnya. The EU leaders released a statement that authorized the signing of the trade accord, noting that "progress had been made with regard to the situation in Chechnya." A date for the signing will be set at the next meeting of EU foreign ministers, scheduled for 17 July. A French government spokesman justified the decision by referring to the "new spirit" of recent negotiations between Moscow and Chechen separatists. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. UNITED STATES RANKS AS LARGEST FOREIGN INVESTOR IN RUSSIA. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce announced that between January and May 1995, direct foreign investment in the Russian economy amounted to $500 million, Segodnya reported on 27 June. The chamber's estimates showed that overall foreign investment in Russia reached $2 billion at the end of last year. The largest investments were in Russia's energy and mining industries. Almost 15% of the 15,204 Russian enterprises that received foreign investments in 1994 were backed by American companies. Currently, the U.S. is the largest foreign investor in Russia, followed by Germany, Austria, and Finland, according to the report. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA GEORGIAN PRIVATIZATION EFFORT. The first auction in Georgia's voucher privatization program opened on 26 June, AFP reported the next day. The government plans to sell stakes in 780 large firms by the end of the year; 20 went on the block initially. Popular reaction to the event has been lukewarm and only 700,000 people claimed their vouchers--each nominally valued at $30--as of 15 June. Official estimates suggest around half of the industries being auctioned are not functioning at present. However, Emir Djugel, the first deputy minister for state property, told AFP that the real figure may be as high as 80%. Vouchers have been selling on the street for between $5 and $6 recently. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. BASAEV IN ABKHAZIA? On 26 June, the news agency Iberia reported that Shamil Basaev was seen the same day in Abkhazia. Georgian Deputy Prime Minister Tamaz Nadareishvili said there are special commando training camps in that region, Izvestiya reported on 28 June. Men allegedly trained in the camps--including mercenaries from Turkey, Jordan, Syria, and other countries--are being sent from Abkhazia into Chechnya, he said. He claimed the camps are located in Novy Afon, Gudauta, and Byzb. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. PROPHET SURFACES IN KAZAKHSTAN. According to the former Mufti of Tashkent, Muhammed Sadik Muhammed Yusuf, a self-proclaimed prophet has surfaced in Almaty. In a telephone interview with RFE/RL's Uzbek Service on 27 June, Yusuf said that Akbeket Sufihan claims to be God's latest messenger. Sufihan's revelations are contained in a book entitled "Allah's New Greeting to the World." The 29 page work divided into 10 sections is written in Kazakh and Russian and claims to be the fruit of the holy Koran. Sufihan sent his work to the Saudi Arabian organization Rabita, which is currently translating the work into Arabic so that the legitimacy of its author's claims can be evaluated. The Mufti, who was removed from office in 1992, is a member of Rabita; he provided information on the unusual case from Istanbul where he is living in exile. -- 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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