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No. 133, Part I, 11 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 YELTSIN HOSPITALIZED WITH HEART CONDITION. President Boris Yeltsin was hospitalized with heart problems on 11 July, Russian and Western news agencies reported. He is undergoing tests for ischemia, a disease involving insufficient blood flow into an organ, which in the case of the heart, can lead to a heart attack. Agencies reported that he is fully conscious and doctors expect him to recover. Tests conducted in April showed that Yeltsin was suffering from high blood pressure, but that he was otherwise healthy. There has been much speculation in recent years on Yeltsin's health and drinking habits. He was hospitalized with chest pains after losing his party post in 1987. Heart trouble forced him to stop work for two days in September 1991. On 11 December 1994, the day Russian troops invaded Chechnya, he was having nose surgery. In February 1995, television reports showed aides helping Yeltsin walk upstairs at a CIS meeting in Almaty. Yeltsin had been scheduled to attend talks in Moscow today on the constitutional status of the eastern Siberian region of Buryatiya. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. IN CASE OF YELTSIN'S INCAPACITATION, CHERNOMYRDIN WOULD ASSUME PRESIDENTIAL DUTIES. If President Yeltsin's heart problems were to render him incapable of carrying out his duties, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin would assume the post of acting president, according to Article 92 of the Russian Constitution. As acting president, Chernomyrdin could exercise all the powers of the Russian presidency except dissolving the Duma, calling referenda, and initiating the process for constitutional amendments. If Chernomyrdin were to become acting president, the constitution specifies that new presidential elections must be held within three months of the date on which Yeltsin leaves office. However, the constitution does not specify who has the authority to determine that the president is incapable of fulfilling his duties, thus paving the way for considerable political debate should Yeltsin remain in the hospital for an extended period. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. BREAKTHROUGH REPORTED IN GROZNY NEGOTIATIONS. Russian and Chechen negotiators said on 10 July that they had reached preliminary agreement on the troublesome issue of Chechnya's constitutional status, Russian and international agencies reported. A spokesman for the OSCE, which is mediating the talks, called the agreement a "breakthrough." The agreement appeared to indicate that the Chechen side has accepted a Russian proposal to postpone a final decision on Chechnya's status until after new elections. Also on 10 July, the two delegations issued a joint statement condemning the forced expulsion of ethnic Chechens from Stavropol Krai and Rostov Oblast. More than 100 Chechen families have returned to Chechnya after being forced to leave their homes in southern Russia, according to Russian officials. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. CONSTITUTIONAL COURT HEARS OPENING ARGUMENTS IN CHECHNYA CASE. The Constitutional Court heard opening arguments in the parliamentary challenge to secret decrees issued by the president and government in November and December 1994 concerning the military campaign in Chechnya, Russian media reported on 10 July. Former Justice Minister Yurii Kalmykov, a State Duma deputy representing the Duma in the case, said under the constitution, acts affecting the rights of citizens are only valid upon their publication in the press, Russian Public Television reported. Kalmykov noted that the secret decrees had limited ordinary citizens' freedom to travel to Chechnya. Furthermore, the parliament's legal team will argue that troops can only be deployed on the territory of the Russian Federation if a law declaring a state of emergency is published. Meanwhile, presidential aide Georgii Satarov told NTV that opposition deputies in parliament filed the appeal for political, not legal, reasons. Legal experts cited by NTV expect the case to go on for at least two weeks. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. CONSTITUTIONAL COURT STRIKES DOWN REGIONAL ELECTORAL LAW. Before opening the Chechnya case, the Constitutional Court struck down amendments to the electoral law of the Chuvash Republic as unconstitutional, Russian TV reported on 10 July. In August 1994, the Chuvash State Soviet removed the provision requiring a minimum level of voter turnout for regional elections. Under the revised law, the candidate in a regional election who wins a plurality of votes is declared the winner. Chuvash President Nikolai Fedorov appealed to the court in June on the grounds that the constitution requires at least a 25% voter turnout for any election to be valid in the Russian Federation. Since approximately one third of the Chuvash Soviet was elected in November 1994 on the basis of the amended electoral law, more legal challenges are likely to follow. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIAN MEDIA FACES FINANCIAL DIFFICULTY. More than 85% of Russian publications are not financially independent, according to Iosif Delashinskii, head of the analysis department at the State Press Committee, Radio Rossii reported 10 July. There are now 10,500 newspapers in the country, most with a print run of less than 10,000 copies. Delashinskii said that as much as 70% of the country's printing equipment needs to be replaced. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. ISLAMIC GROUP FORMS ELECTORAL BLOC. Islamic activists, led by Geidar Dzhemal, announced the formation of a new electoral bloc, the Islamic Committee, at a Moscow press conference on 10 July, Russian TV reported. Dzhemal stressed that Orthodoxy and Islam have much in common and can stand together against Western nihilism. Dzhemal believes that Russia must form a union with Islamic countries and that the Muslim politicians of Russia can act as intermediaries. One possibility, he suggests, is to attract capital from Islamic countries to finance Russian high-tech projects. Abdurashid Dudaev, assistant to the president of Ingushetia, said the committee supports the territorial integrity of Russia with the recognition of equal rights for Muslims. Recent months have seen the formation of other groups appealing to Muslim voters, such as the Islamic Democratic Party of Russia. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. GOVERNMENT SETS UP SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin has ordered the establishment of a Social Development Council under the government, Rossiiskie vesti reported on 11 July. The council will be headed by Deputy Prime Minister Yurii Yarov and its duties will include analyzing draft laws related to social policy, and elaborating measures to combat poverty, unemployment, and other social problems. Meanwhile, Ekho Moskvy reported on 10 July that President Yeltsin had issued a decree disbanding the presidential Social Policy Council and its apparatus. A spokesman said it duplicated the work of other presidential consultative services. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. ART THEFT THWARTED. Customs officers at the Troitsk checkpoint in Chelyabinsk Oblast on the Russian-Kazakh border thwarted an attempt to smuggle a large consignment of valuable artworks out of Russia, Krasnaya zvezda reported on 11 July. The officers found 2,400 paintings, etchings, and sketches, including works by famous artists, under a pile of tires in a truck. Experts are now trying to determine which museum the artworks belong to. There have been numerous thefts from museums and cases of valuable artifacts being smuggled out of Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. SLAVE LABOR DISCOVERED IN VLADIVOSTOK. Zhao Guobin, president of the Center for the Protection of Interests of Chinese Entrepreneurs, claims that several hundred Chinese peasants have been exploited for three years at the Hong Kong financed Pacific Development knitwear factory in Vladivostok, Segodnya reported on 8 July. The Chinese laborers' papers were taken away and they were unable to obtain money or medicines when they needed them. Citing figures released by Primorsk Krai authorities, the paper said that in the first half of this year, nearly 12,000 foreigners invited by businesses came to work in the krai. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIAN/SOUTH KOREAN ARMS DEAL SIGNED. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Davydov and his South Korean counterpart, Hong Jae-Hyong, signed an agreement in Seoul on 10 July whereby Russia will provide $457 million worth of arms and raw materials to South Korea, Russian and international agencies reported. The payments will be used to offset some of Russia's debt to that country. The deal includes $210.5 million in arms and military equipment. In April, the Koreans indicated that they would be getting Russian T-80U tanks, BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicles, Igla air-defense missiles, and Metis anti-tank missiles. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. JAPANESE CULT WANTED RUSSIAN SPACE BOOSTER. The head of the Aum Shinrikyo cult's "construction ministry" had shown an interest in purchasing a Russian Proton space booster according to Japanese police, the Kyodo news agency reported on 10 July. Kiyohide Hayakawa, who was charged in connection with the gassing of Tokyo's subway last March, had visited Russia 20 times over the past three years. Police said he had a notebook with technical details of the rocket, prices, and notes on building a launching-pad in Japan. Officials of the Khrunichev Space Center, which builds the Proton, denied that Hayakawa had visited their center, ITAR-TASS reported. A spokesman suggested he might have contacted the Ukrainian bureau where the Proton was designed. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. FEDOROV SKEPTICAL ABOUT SEMI-FIXED RUBLE. The introduction of a semi- fixed ruble/dollar exchange rate will not help stabilize the Russian economy, State Duma deputy Boris Fedorov argued at the Russian-American Press Center on 10 July, Russian TV reported. The former finance minister claimed that Russia had an average monthly inflation rate of 12% in the first half of 1995, which is even higher than the rate for the same period last year. He said he anticipates the dollar will cost 6,000-7,000 rubles by the end of the year. However, Michel Camdessus, head of the IMF, said that the Russian government's actions "have a good chance of success" according to Kommersant-Daily on 8 July. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIA AND INDIA IMPLEMENT JOINT PROJECTS. Russia and India will implement a number of joint projects totaling $129 million, Finansovye Izvestiya reported on 11 July. India will build a railroad terminal in Russia, while Russia will carry out three projects related to the chemical industry, including a titanium oxide plant, in India. Russia's financial contribution to the projects will be taken from the debt repayments that India owes Russia. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. REDUCTION OF STATE INVESTMENTS AFFECT ECONOMY. Experts from the Economics Ministry expressed concern at the continuing decline in state- funded investment in Russian industry, Sovetskaya Rossiia reported on 11 July. The share of state investments in total investment equaled 5.2% during the first quarter of 1995, Business-Tass reported. That was down from 7.3% for the first quarter of 1994 and 11.8% in the first quarter of 1993. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIANS UNHAPPY WITH THEIR WAGES. Only 16% of respondents were satisfied with their wages, while 80% were dissatisfied, according to a poll carried out by the All-Russian Foundation for the Study of Public Opinion, Russian TV reported on 10 July. A mere 7% of respondents believe that their salary depends on their own efforts; 21% link it to decisions of the government; and 37% say it depends on the economic well-being of their enterprise. Asked what they would do if they were made redundant, 40% said they would ask friends and relatives for help, 24% said they would go to a labor exchange, and 16% said they would look for a new job on their own. The average monthly wage in May was about 430,000 rubles and the monthly minimum 43,700. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA WORRIES ABOUT ISLAMIC FUNDAMENTALISM IN KYRGYZSTAN. The Committee for National Safety in Kyrgyzstan is deeply concerned about the growing influence of what it refers to as Islamic fundamentalism in the southern regions of the republic, Russia's Radio Mayak reported on 10 July. Miroslav Niyazov, the committee's deputy chairman, said there are many Muslim activists, who have criminal records, spreading propaganda in the south. Niyazov said there are more than 1,000 (functioning) mosques in the Osh Oblast alone. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc. SMALL STEPS TOWARD TURKO-ARMENIAN RAPPROCHEMENT? An official Turkish delegation led by Gurbuz Capan, head of the Esenyurt community administration in Istanbul, visited Armenia at the invitation of Erevan Mayor Vagan Khachatrian, Segodnya reported on 4 July. According to Segodnya, observers in Erevan took special note of the fact that the delegation laid flowers at a memorial to Armenian genocide victims. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. CIS RUSSIAN DUAL CITIZENSHIP IN FORMER SOVIET STATES. Russia has so far failed to secure dual citizenship for its citizens throughout the newly independent states, according to Rossiiskie vesti on 6 July. Russia has signed an agreement on dual citizenship with Turkmenistan and has already drawn up such treaties with Kyrgyzstan, Belarus, and Tajikistan. Negotiations with other states remain deadlocked. Rossiiskie vesti alleges that ethnic Russians suffer labor discrimination in Lithuania, Georgia, and Azerbaijan and many remain effectively stateless in Latvia and Estonia. The number of Russians living abroad being granted Russian citizenship is on the rise, with 123,000 persons in 1992-1993, 444,000 in 1994, and 110,000 in the first quarter of 1995. -- Michael Mihalka, 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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