|If you are not allowed to laugh in heaven, I don't want to go there. - Martin Luther|
No. 134, Part I, 12 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 CARRIES OUT HIS DUTIES. In spite of his hospitalization, President Boris Yeltsin continues to carry out his duties and is making plans to visit Norway and Murmansk on 19 July after a short period of rest, Ekho Moskvy reported on 11 July. The ruble fell and then recovered against the dollar and Western financial markets took little notice of the incident, with many traders saying that Yeltsin was no longer crucial to Russian stability, Reuters reported. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's success in negotiating the Budennovsk hostages' release and his recent showdown with the Duma have made him a plausible replacement for Yeltsin. Viktor Ilyukhin, a member of the Duma from the Communist faction, said that Yeltsin is "already dead politically" due to his low popularity ratings, AFP reported. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. QUESTIONING BEGINS IN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT CASE ON CHECHNYA. On the second day of Constitutional Court hearings concerning secret decrees on Chechnya, the legal team representing the president and government answered questions, Russian Public Television reported on 11 July. Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Shakhrai testified that the military campaign authorized by the November and December 1994 secret decrees was the government's only option after peaceful attempts to remove the "illegitimate" and "anti-constitutional" regime of Dzhokhar Dudaev had failed. Judge Valerii Zorkin called the court's attention to the fact that Shakhrai "evaded a direct question" about whether the Chechnya decrees, formed in the Security Council, were ever presented to the cabinet. Shakhrai later testified that as soon as "illegal armed formations" in Chechnya were liquidated, the government would introduce a state of emergency in Chechnya. The parliamentary court appeal argues that the constitution prohibits the deployment of troops on the territory of the Russian Federation without a publicly declared state of emergency. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. GROZNY NEGOTIATIONS STALL. Despite reportedly reaching agreement on an approach to the question of Chechnya's future constitutional status, Russian and Chechen negotiators adjourned their talks on 11 June without a concrete deal, Russian and international agencies reported. Russian negotiator Arkadii Volskii told journalists that the Russian delegation had worked through the night on a new set of proposals on the region's status, and would resume discussions this morning. Commenting on the lack of progress, Izvestiya reported on 12 July that optimistic statements by Russian negotiators predicting an imminent agreement are beginning to sound like "disinformation." Meanwhile, ceasefire violations continue. Russian military spokesmen said on 12 July that five Russian servicemen had died in sporadic fighting over the past 24 hours. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. YAVLINSKII SEES NO PROBLEM IN DEMOCRATIC DISUNITY. Grigorii Yavlinskii, leader of the Yabloko bloc, declared that there is no tragedy in the current split within democratic ranks in a 12 July Izvestiya article. He accused the other democratic politicians of seeking to concentrate power in Yeltsin's hands and supporting an economic policy that only benefits a minority. He asserted that Russian voters have more choices than just pursuing the status quo or returning to Communism and that only by separating himself from leaders like Yeltsin, Yegor Gaidar, and Chernomyrdin could he preserve a democratic alternative in Russia. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. DRAFT LAW REVISES ELECTORAL DISTRICT BOUNDARIES. The Central Electoral Commission's proposed law determining the boundaries of the Duma's 225 single-member electoral districts has changed almost all of the lines without public explanation, Izvestiya reported on 11 July. The districts in Moscow and St. Petersburg have been completely altered, mainly complicating the electoral prospects of democratic politicians who have criticized Yeltsin's Chechnya policies. If the draft is adopted, the incumbents representing those cities will have to compete in new districts. In the provinces, the plan attempts to dilute reform-oriented urban voters with their more conservative counterparts. Nizhnii Novgorod, for example, is divided into four parts that are each paired with rural voters. Some of the districts' peculiar shapes provide clear evidence of gerrymandering. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIAN ELECTORATE DECLINED BY TWO MILLION VOTERS SINCE 1993. Russia has 104,977,895 eligible voters, according to the Central Electoral Commission, approximately 2 million fewer than were registered for the December 1993 parliamentary elections, Izvestiya reported on 11 July. The figure is important because it will be used to determine whether a sufficient number of people voted for the elections to be valid. At least 25% of eligible voters must participate. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. DUMA DEPUTY CRITICIZES PLAN TO PRIVATIZE BOOK PUBLISHERS. In a 10 July interview on Moscow Television, Duma deputy Igor Yakovenko, a member of the Yabloko group and the Duma Press Committee, criticized the State Press Committee's alleged plan to combine large state-owned book publishers into one enterprise and subsequently sell half its shares to a German corporation. Yakovenko warned that implementing the plan would be a "national tragedy" that would allow foreigners to "dictate to the Russian government." Yakovenko said that in principle, he is not against privatizing parts of the publishing industry or even to foreign investment in publishers. However, he said such privatization should be carried out on a "competitive basis," without allowing "monopolies" to develop. According to Yakovenko, the Duma will soon request that the State Press Committee give a full report to the government on its policy regarding book publishers. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. RECOMMENDATIONS ON PRESS FREEDOM AND JOURNALISTS' RESPONSIBILITIES. The president's Judicial Chamber on Information Disputes and the Union of Journalists published a joint statement on freedom of the press and the responsibilities of journalists in Rossiiskaya gazeta on 11 July. The statement criticized journalists for excessive reliance on anonymous sources and frequently publishing information without verifying its accuracy. The authors added that the media too often absolved itself of responsibility for running inaccurate or unlawful advertisements. They recommended both "legal measures" and "self-limitations" by publishers to protect the "moral health" of children against pornography and publications calling for violence or advocating racial supremacy. The statement also criticized the presidential and government apparatus, which it described as more closed to journalists than party committees of the Soviet period. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIA AND BURYATIA SIGN AGREEMENTS. Prime Minister Chernomyrdin and Buryat President Leonid Potapov signed a number of agreements in a Moscow ceremony, Russian Radio reported on 11 June. Among the documents signed were agreements on natural resource utilization, environmental protection, economic development of the Lake Baikal region, and the division of powers between the federal and republican authorities on foreign trade. The agreements are the sixth in a series of such packages signed by Moscow with Russian Federation subjects. Chernomyrdin told journalists after the signing that such agreements fell "within the framework of the constitution," and that similar accords would be signed with other federation subjects soon. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. ILLEGAL TRADE IN GROWTH HORMONES. Finnish customs officials said on 11 July that at least 75,000 ampoules of growth hormones worth millions of dollars have been smuggled from Russia to Finland, AFP reported the same day. The illegal trafficking came to light in May, when a Finnish businessman was arrested on the border between the two countries with 2,000 ampoules of Moscow-made Somatropine and Gonadotropine in his car. The man, who is to stand trial on 18 July, said he had made more than 25 trips. Growth hormones are taken by bodybuilders, but their uncontrolled use can cause cardiovascular problems, diabetes, and aggressive behavior. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIA CONDEMNS TURKISH INCURSION INTO IRAQ. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Grigorii Karasin condemned a recently completed one-week Turkish military offensive aimed at rooting out Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) rebels in northern Iraq, international and Russian agencies reported on 11 July. Karasin characterized the Turkish action as "unacceptable," because it violates the "territory of an independent state." Moscow's reaction to the latest Turkish operation involving an estimated 3,000 troops is markedly different from the tacit approval it gave to Ankara's decision to send in some 35,000 troops for a six-week operation in March. At the time, Karasin termed the "one-off" operation an "internal affair" of the states concerned. The change may be attributed to the fact that Moscow is now less exposed to criticism over Chechnya, as well as its efforts to court Iraq. -- Scott Parrish and Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIA TO SIGN MILITARY ACCORD WITH SOUTH AFRICA. A South African military spokesman told Reuters on 11 July that South African Defense Minister Joe Modise, currently visiting Russia, would sign a defense cooperation agreement with his Russian counterpart on 14 July. The two countries have already been cooperating to upgrade South Africa's aging French-built Mirage fighters by installing more powerful Russian engines. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIANS TO MODERNIZE INDIA'S MIG-21s. Russia and India are expected to sign a deal this month for the modernization of over 100 Indian MiG-21 jet fighters, the Chinese new agency Xinhua reported on 10 July. Quoting Indian Air Force sources, the agency said that the deal would be worth between $200 and $350 million, and would involve the complete replacement of the fighters' avionics and weapons system. The same sources said a Russian delegation would visit New Delhi soon to sign the agreement since the two sides had resolved their differences over pricing. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. FOOD GROUP LAUNCHES FIRST PUBLIC TAKEOVER BID ON RUSSIAN MARKET. A major Russian food group, Koloss, launched the first public takeover bid in the country's rapidly developing financial market, offering to buy 51% of the shares in the major Moscow chocolate company Red October, AFP reported on 11 July. Koloss offered $7.50 for each share in Red October before 25 July, payable in rubles. The entire bid, being handled by a branch of Menatep Bank, is worth some $25 million. In Moscow stock trading on 10 July, market shares in Red October were quoted at 26,710 rubles ($5.90) each--the highest level since the company was privatized. Koloss representatives said there are no management changes planned for Red October if the bid is successful. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. GOVERNMENT IMPLEMENTS PLAN TO IMPROVE TAX COLLECTION. The Russian government began implementing a plan to make tax collection more efficient, Rossiiskaya gazeta reported on 12 July. The goal is to channel all taxes, customs duties, and other mandatory payments to the State Treasury. Beginning on 1 August, the State Tax Service will require enterprises and organizations submitting federal taxes to specify their registration number. Those numbers will be used to create a corporate taxpayer database. The government also plans to impose stricter administrative measures and criminal prosecution to crack down on tax evasion. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. MANUFACTURERS' ENERGY PRICES INCREASE. The prices manufacturers pay for energy (crude oil, petrochemicals, and coal) increased by an average of 130% during the first half of 1995, Rabochaya tribuna reported on 11 July, citing Goskomstat statistics. The combined output of the country's fuel and energy sector during the first six months of 1995 dropped 3.6% compared to the same period last year, while electrical power production declined 3% and oil and gas production fell 2%. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA RESPUBLIKA TRIAL ENDS. A Kyrgyz court handed two journalists from the Bishkek daily Respublika one-year suspended sentences for "libelous publications insulting the honor and dignity" of the president, Radio Liberty's Kyrgyz service reported on 11 July. The two reporters, Zamira Sydykova and Tamara Slashova, will be banned from working as journalists and traveling abroad for 18 months, according to Radio Liberty sources. If they repeat the offense, they can be sent to prison. President Askar Akayev brought the charges against them after they wrote an editorial for the newspaper saying he has a villa in Switzerland and a house in Turkey. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. CANADIANS IN THE CASPIAN. The Canadian firm International Petroleum Corporation will invest $38 million to develop two key offshore Turkmen oil fields, AFP reported on 11 July. The fields in question presently produce some 8,200 barrels per day (bpd); after development this figure is expected to rise to 80,000 bpd. As the legal status of the Caspian Sea resources has not been finalized the agreement is of interest; to date Turkmenistan has joined with Russia and Iran in demanding a negotiated solution to this problem. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. TAJIKISTAN'S TROUBLED MONETARY REFORM. Only 10% of the new Tajik rubles (totaling 18 billion rubles), which were introduced on 15 May, have returned to the bank, Komsomolskaya pravda reported on 11 July. Without adequate reserves, the republic's national bank will have to print more currency than it had anticipated in order to pay state employees' wages, but this increase in the money supply could trigger an inflationary spiral. -- 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. 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