|If we are to live together in peace, we must first come to know each other better. - Lyndon B. Johnson|
No. 130, Part I, 6 July 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 PASSES LAW ON ELECTIONS FOR FEDERATION COUNCIL. The Duma passed on its third reading a law that would require all Federation Council deputies to be elected, Russian media reported on 5 July. The upper house of parliament is comprised of representatives of the legislative and executive branches of Russia's 89 regions. Up to now, only 22 regions have elected their executive leaders, while most of the rest have been appointed by the president. Issa Kostoev, the chairman of the Council's Committee on Legislation, welcomed the draft law, saying elections for the Council would guarantee a real separation of powers, Ekho Moskvy reported. But President Boris Yeltsin argued that requiring elections would violate the constitution, which did not specify that elections must be held, Russian TV reported. Council Chairman Vladimir Shumeiko also denounced the draft law and told Radio Rossii that the Council would refer the matter to the Constitutional Court. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. COMMUNISTS PRESS AHEAD ON IMPEACHMENT PROCEEDINGS. Duma Chairman Ivan Rybkin said a motion to initiate impeachment proceedings will be included in the Duma's agenda on 7 July, Radio Rossii reported on 5 July. The Communist Party faction has collected 165 signatures to indict the president and submitted relevant documents to the Duma, Segodnya reported the same day. Rybkin noted that the Duma's legal department must now evaluate the documents. Under the constitution, the president can only be impeached on charges of high crimes or treason. Even if a majority of deputies vote to consider the impeachment motion, a two- thirds majority vote (300 deputies) would be required in order to refer the indictment to the courts. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. CENTRAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION DRAWS DISTRICT LINES. The Central Electoral Commission has drawn proposed boundaries for the 225 single-member constituencies provided by the law on parliamentary elections, Rossiiskaya gazeta reported on 6 July. The plan assigns approximately 466,000 voters to each district. In addition, 21 federation subjects with populations smaller than this level have each been allotted one district. The commission has referred the proposed electoral map to the Duma, which must determine some of the plan's provisions, including how and in which districts Russians living abroad may vote. Under the electoral law, the list of single-member constituencies must be published by 29 August, at least 110 days before the scheduled parliamentary elections. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. DUMA POSTPONES VOTE TO OVERRIDE VETO OF TV LAW. On 5 July the Duma postponed a vote to override the president's veto of a law that would have prohibited the privatization of state-owned television and radio until further guidelines could be adopted, Rossiiskie vesti reported on 6 July. The law specifically targets the controversial reorganization of Ostankino TV and creation of the partly-private Russian Public Television company (ORT), ordered by Yeltsin in November 1994. The law would halt all state funding for ORT and prohibit the company from broadcasting on Channel 1. Also on 5 July, the Duma voted down a motion to ban all changes in leadership of the mass media for the duration of the campaign for parliamentary and presidential elections, Russian TV reported. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. NEW POSITION FOR YERIN. President Boris Yeltsin has appointed Viktor Yerin, who was sacked as interior minister last week, as deputy director of Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service responsible for combating organized crime, Russian and Western agencies reported. The 5 July appointment indicates that Yerin, a career police officer who has shown his personal loyalty to Yeltsin, retains the president's favor. The Duma, which had demanded his resignation following the bungled attempts to resolve the Budennovsk hostage crisis, greeted the move with derision. Also on 5 July, Yeltsin named a replacement for one of the other senior government officials axed in the aftermath of the Budennovsk crisis. Vyacheslav Mikhailov, the top Russian negotiator in Chechnya and first deputy nationalities minister, will replace Nikolai Yegorov as head of the Nationalities Ministry. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. FURTHER CRITICISM OF SECURITY SERVICES. In an interview with Komsomolskaya pravda on 4 July, an anonymous high-ranking intelligence officer argued that the Budennovsk tragedy revealed the complete incompetence of the Russian special services. He contended that adequate replacements have yet to be created for the dismantled KGB organs and that the government must elaborate a new policy for the security services. According to the officer, the activities of the individual services that replaced the KGB are poorly coordinated, while expenditure has increased owing to a growth in administrative personnel. He added that the number of senior personnel has also risen, commenting that the replacement agencies have seven times as many generals as the KGB had, although the number of experienced officers has fallen sharply. In Vek (30 June-6 July), another security service officer, Colonel Aleksandr Zdanovich, also blamed the reorganization of the KGB for the shortcomings in Russia's response to terrorism. He added that the Federal Security Services' work is hindered by a lack of funding. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. PRESS IN DECLINE, INDEPENDENT ELECTRONIC MEDIA ON THE RISE. According to a seminar on democracy and the Russian mass media held in Moscow, circulation figures for newspapers and periodicals in Russia are only 7% of what they were in 1990, Russian TV reported on 5 July. However, more than 150 independent radio and television companies are now operating in the country. Speakers at the seminar noted that despite financial problems faced by the press and mass media, the "fourth branch" is becoming a powerful democratic institution in Russia. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. GROZNY NEGOTIATORS CONSULT WITH PRIME MINISTER. Russian negotiators, led by Vyacheslav Mikhailov, the recently appointed nationalities minister, and deputy delegation head Arkadii Volskii met with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin on 5 July, Russian and Western agencies reported. A scheduled meeting between delegation members and President Yeltsin was canceled, although Chernomyrdin and Yeltsin did meet later to discuss the currently deadlocked Grozny talks. After the meeting, Volskii said Yeltsin had promised to modify his 4 July decree calling for federal troops to be permanently based in Chechnya. Volskii said the original version of the decree, which came as a surprise to Russian negotiators, had threatened to scuttle the talks, because it contradicted earlier agreements reached with the Chechen negotiators. Volskii added that without Yeltsin's pledge, there would have been no point in returning to Grozny for the next round of talks, scheduled to open today. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. CHINESE BORDER TREATY RATIFIED. The Federation Council on 5 July ratified the September 1994 treaty between Russia and China dealing with a 55-kilometer section of their western border. The section is in the Altai Mountains at the junction of the borders of Russia, China, Kazakhstan, and Mongolia. The Council's Committee on International Relations reported that the border line "fully corresponds to the historical line of the border between the two states and the frontier which is actually being guarded." The two sides have also signed a treaty dealing with a section of their eastern border in the Maritime Kray region--one that has upset the local Russian administration. They have not resolved their differences regarding the border near Khabarovsk. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIA WILL NOT RECYCLE PLUTONIUM IN GERMANY. Nuclear Energy Minister Viktor Mikhailov declared on 4 July that his government would not agree to the recycling of Russian plutonium in Germany, the weekly Die Woche reported. American officials, looking for a way to accelerate the dismantling of Russian nuclear warheads scheduled under various arms control agreements, have been discussing a possible recycling plan with their German counterparts. Western experts have speculated that Russia does not want to export plutonium for recycling because that might reveal information about its nuclear weapons technology. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIA AND LONDON CLUB FAIL TO REACH AGREEMENT. Two days of talks between Russia and its commercial bank creditors adjourned without producing an agreement for the long-term rescheduling of Russian debt, international and Russian agencies reported on 5 July. The two sides will continue to discuss the issue, but set no date for their next meeting. Russia, which assumed the former Soviet Union's foreign debt after the country's collapse in 1991, owes the 600 member-banks of the London Club about $25 billion in principal and $3-4 billion in overdue interest payments. The head of the Russian delegation, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Trade Oleg Davydov, said Russia had proposed that its 1992-94 debt be rescheduled over a 25-year period. He added that Moscow would not "sign any other document" if its terms were not accepted. Talks on rescheduling the Russian debt have been dragging on for several years. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. U.S. SAID TO LIFT SATELLITE RESTRICTION. The director general of the Khrunichev State Space Research and Scientific-Production Center, Anatoly Kiselov, has said that the U.S. has agreed to scrap the space launch agreement with Russia that limits the number of U.S.-built satellites Russia can launch, Communications Daily reported on 3 July. Under that agreement, Russia could launch no more than nine U.S. satellites over the next eight years. Kiselov said that U.S. Vice President Al Gore discussed lifting the quotas during his recent visit to Moscow. Khrunichev builds the Proton heavy-lift launch vehicle, and is actively seeking a greater share of the world's satellite launch business. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCES RUBLE EXCHANGE RATE CORRIDOR. In a move to curb inflation and stabilize the ruble, the Russian government and Central Bank restricted the float of the ruble against the U.S. dollar on 5 July, Russian and Western agencies reported. The measure, effective from 6 July to 1 October, set a ceiling of 4,300 rubles and a floor of 4,900 against the dollar. The exchange rate corridor, the first in Russia's history and backed by $10 billion in Central Bank reserves, should help the country move toward financial stability. In the past several weeks, the ruble has gained 12.5% from its 29 April record low of 5,130 rubles to $1. On 5 July, it was trading at 4,559 to $1. By declaring the ruble corridor, the Central Bank is committing itself to the unlimited purchase and sale of dollars on the foreign exchange market to support the ruble within set limits. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. OIL FIRMS SIGN ANTI-MONOPOLY ACCORD. Russia's major oil companies signed an anti-monopoly agreement aimed at preventing unfair competition, LUKoil spokesman Aleksandr Vasilenko told AFP on 5 July. On the same day, The Moscow Times reported that the agreement was signed by LUKoil, Surgutneftegaz, Yukos, Sidanko, Transneft, Slavneft, Transnefteprodukt, and Nefteotdacha, which account for 72% of Russia's oil output. The signatories ruled out agreements with competitors who had a dominant position in the market. They also pledged to take account of regional interests. Meanwhile, Segodnya said the companies also agreed to preserve Russia's integrated pipeline network, with equal access to it for any commercial organization in line with the anti-monopoly conditions. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN ELECTIONS. Preliminary returns indicate that the ruling Armenian National Party and five smaller parties allied in the Republic bloc have won the 4 July parliamentary elections, Western agencies reported. Voter turnout was estimated at more than 60%. Final results are not expected for ten days, but the results of the 4 July referendum on adoption of a new constitution should have been available on 5 July, according to Noyan Tapan. International monitors, including an OSCE delegation, expressed grave concern at restrictions on the participation of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsyutyun) and other opposition parties, and said the elections were "free but not fair," according to Reuters. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. TAJIK BORDER GUARDS DESERTING. More than 1,000 soldiers from the Russian forces guarding the Tajik-Afghan border have deserted so far this year, according to Lt. Gen. Pavel Tarasenko, the Russian commander of the border forces stationed in Tajikistan. The general also said there are problems drafting new soldiers. Although a target figure of 3,500 was set for conscription, only 2,100 soldiers have actually shown up for duty, Reuters reported. Tarasenko said Russian and Tajik military units were competing for the conscripts and complained that the Tajik Defense and Interior ministries have resorted to press-gang tactics to get new recruits. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc. UZBEK OPPOSITION CONFERS . . . Birlik, the banned Uzbek opposition movement, held a conference in Moscow on 1 July to determine the date and location of a future congress and strategies for operating inside Uzbekistan itself, Moscow Television reported the same day. According to reports received by Radio Liberty's Uzbek Service, many of the estimated 15 participants in the one-day conference, including those who chaired it, Birlik co-chairman Akhundjon Pulatov and Samarkand province chairman Alibay Uliyakhshiou, live in exile. Other activists from Tashkent, Bukhara, Namangan, Ferghana, and Termez also attended. The size of the gathering and its failure to reach any concrete decisions are suggestive of the movement's growing weakness due to personal conflicts and harsh measures taken against it by the Uzbek authorities. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. . . . MIRSAIDOV'S VIEWS OF CONFERENCE. Former Uzbek Vice President Shakhrulla Mirsaidov criticized the Birlik conference in Moscow during a 2 July telephone interview with Radio Liberty's Uzbek service. Mirsaidov is the only high-profile politician still living in the country who is known for his opposition to the rule of President Islam Karimov. He said that before deciding to hold the congress in a foreign country, the group should apply to hold it in Uzbekistan, thereby forcing the government to make a public refusal. He argued that Birlik and Erk, Uzbekistan's other banned opposition group, should collaborate and inject new ideas into Uzbekistan from their vantage point abroad. In the recent past Mirsaidov and Akhundjon Pulatov have been identified by some Birlik activists as potential new replacements for the current Birlik leader, Abdurrahim Pulatov. Mirsaidov denied that he is affiliated with Birlik or that he has any desire to play such a role. -- 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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