|Every custom was once an eccentricity; every idea was once an absurdity. - Holbrook Jackson|
No. 135, Part I, 13 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 TO LEAVE HOSPITAL NEXT WEEK. President Boris Yeltsin will leave the hospital on 17 July, according to agency reports. Doctors refused to release pictures of Yeltsin or details of his condition. Kommersant- Daily argues that Yeltsin's advisers, particularly Viktor Ilyushin, are nervous that the president's unstable health is making Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin look like an even more likely successor. On 12 July, Chernomyrdin spoke with Yeltsin for 20 minutes on the telephone and told reporters that speculation about the president's health is neither understandable nor polite, Russian Public Television reported. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. DUMA OVERRIDES YELTSIN VETO ON ITS SUBPOENA POWER. By a vote of 308-1 and 2 abstentions, the State Duma overrode Yeltsin's veto of a law that gives the Federal Assembly the power to summon federal and local officials to its sessions to provide information. Fines of between 50 to 100 times the monthly minimum wage can be handed to those who fail to comply or provide false data. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. DUMA VOTE ON IMPEACHMENT FAILS. For the second time, Communist deputies in the Duma failed to assemble enough votes to initiate impeachment proceedings against President Yeltsin, Russian media reported on 12 July. Only 168 deputies voted in favor of beginning the impeachment process, far short of the 226 required to put the motion on the Duma's agenda. The measure failed in part because deputies from Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party, citing Yeltsin's illness, withdrew their signatures from the petition calling for impeachment. On 23 June, the Duma rejected the first attempt to begin parliamentary debate on an impeachment motion. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. DUMA PASSES BILL ON CHECHEN CONFLICT. The Duma passed a bill calling for the political resolution of the Chechen conflict, Russian TV reported on 12 July. The bill calls for the removal of most federal troops from Chechnya, and the formation of an interim government for the republic. The bill also would prohibit the redeployment of Russian army troops in Chechnya without a state of emergency declaration by the president. According to the Russian Constitution, a state of emergency must be approved by the Federation Council. President Yeltsin ordered Russian troops into Chechnya last December without such a declaration. The bill now goes to the Council for approval. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. RABOCHAYA TRIBUNA MAY BECOME ORGAN OF CHERNOMYRDIN BLOC. Rabochaya tribuna, the newspaper Anatolii Yurkov founded and edited before he was appointed to lead the government newspaper Rossiiskaya gazeta, may become the main newspaper of Prime Minister Chernomyrdin's bloc Our Home Is Russia, Moskovskie novosti reported in its 9-16 July edition. Rabochaya tribuna is losing money and has reportedly been offered financial help from Gazprom, the gas monopoly Chernomyrdin led from 1989 to 1992. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. LABOR MINISTRY ON FALLING LIFE EXPECTANCY. Labor Ministry representative Aleksandr Tkachenko said on 11 July that in 1994 life expectancy for Russian men fell to 57.3 years and for women to 71.1, Russian and Western agencies reported. According to AFP, he also said the population fell by 1.7 million in 1993-1994. It was not clear whether this figure takes into account migration, which compensated for much of the natural loss in previous years. Tkachenko added that the government had worked out an anti-crisis program to tackle the demographic problem, but he gave no details. NTV reported that the new figures were released in connection with an article in Izvestiya that claimed that the size of the adult population has been underestimated in order to manipulate the election results. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. BUSINESS AND THE MAFIA. More than 40% of Russian entrepreneurs said they had come into conflict with criminal groups last year, according to an opinion survey reported by Radio Mayak on 12 July. One in four respondents admitted to regularly paying off mafia groups. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. MOSCOW ADOPTS CITY CHARTER. Mayor Yurii Luzhkov signed the Moscow City Charter (ustav) on 12 July, NTV reported. Moscow is the 16th of Russia's 89 regions and republics to adopt its charter. The charter provides a legal basis for the mayor and City Duma and a foundation for adopting legislation at the local level. According to Luzhkov, none of its articles contradict the Russian Constitution. It took seven years to complete the process of writing the charter, Russian Public Television reported. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. TATARSTAN HAS STOPPED MAKING PAYMENTS TO THE RUSSIAN BUDGET. The republic of Tatarstan stopped sending payments to the Russian federal budget because Moscow had not paid for military equipment, Tatar Prime Minister Farid Mukhamedshin announced on 11 July, according to Radio Rossii. The Russian Defense Ministry owes enterprises in Tatarstan 96 billion rubles for military hardware produced last year, AFP reported. According to Mukhamedshin, since the Finance Ministry and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin did not reply to requests to pay the debt, "we had to resort to extreme measures." Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev is on the political council of Chernomyrdin's electoral bloc, Our Home is Russia. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. RENEWED TENSION IN PRIMORSK MINES. Miners in Primorsk Krai have not received pay checks for May and June and are threatening to take strike action if their wages are not paid, Russian media reported on 12 July. According to Segodnya on 11 July, no money has been received from the local power company Dalenergo for the last two months. The power industry blames the Finance Ministry for not releasing subsidies to the sector. Russian TV reported that the government will send 44 billion rubles to the krai within the next 10 days to pay the miners' wages. In April, a miners' strike in the region was only resolved after intervention by First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. THEFT OF CURRENCY BONDS INVESTIGATED. Military prosecutors have begun an investigation into the theft of $7.8 million worth of hard-currency bonds, Moskovskii komsomolets and an RFE/RL correspondent reported on 12 July. The bonds were allegedly stolen by Russian servicemen during military operations in Grozny in January. The bonds belonged to the state oil concern Grozneft and were kept at the Grozny branch of Kredobank, which was partly destroyed during the storming of the city. The looters allegedly teamed up with the director of a Yekaterinburg exchange and sold the bonds to the Moscow-based commercial bank Interbank for $2 million. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. CONCERN OVER CHOLERA MOUNTS. Russian officials said on 12 July that they have tightened sanitary controls on the border between southern Russia and Ukraine in an attempt to halt the spread of cholera, Western agencies reported. More than 200 people have been affected by a cholera outbreak in Ukraine this summer, and on 12 July one woman suffering from the disease in the Russian city of Rostov was taken to hospital, ITAR- TASS reported. Local officials in both countries have urged residents not to go fishing or swimming in the Don River. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIA CRITICIZES NATO AIR STRIKES IN BOSNIA. A high-ranking Russian diplomat characterized NATO air strikes against Bosnian Serb positions near Srebrenica as "senseless" and "counterproductive," Interfax reported on 12 July. The diplomat also contended that the air strikes would endanger UN peacekeeping personnel in Bosnia, not protect them. A statement issued by the Russian Foreign Ministry on 12 July denounced any use of force in Bosnia, and assigned equal blame to Muslims, Croats, and Serbs for taking actions which had led "to the logic of force gaining the upper hand in Bosnia." The statement added that Russia continues to support UN peacekeeping operations in Bosnia and opposes any withdrawal of the peacekeepers. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. DUMA CALLS FOR UNILATERAL LIFTING OF SANCTIONS ON RUMP YUGOSLAVIA. The Russian State Duma passed on its second reading a bill calling for Russia to unilaterally lift its sanctions against rump Yugoslavia, ITAR- TASS reported on 12 July. The bill, which passed by a vote of 246-3, states that since the rump Yugoslavia "was not part of the Balkan conflict," international sanctions against it are unjustified. However, to become law, the bill must still pass a third reading in the Duma, gain approval by the Federation Council, and be signed by President Yeltsin. The Duma also passed a non-binding resolution "resolutely condemning" NATO air strikes in Bosnia and attacking NATO's "open support of one side" in the Bosnia conflict. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. DEPUTY CHIEF OF THE GENERAL STAFF ON NATO EXPANSION. Col. Gen. Dmitrii Kharchenko, deputy chief of the Russian General Staff, reiterated Russian objections to the eastward expansion of NATO in an interview with Krasnaya zvezda on 12 July. Kharchenko acknowledged that the countries of Eastern and Central Europe have security concerns, but said Russia "could not allow the security of others to be purchased at the price of Russia's security." He proposed that instead of joining NATO, the countries of the region could accept a joint guarantee of their security from Russia and NATO. The general noted that if NATO were to expand, Russia would have to reconsider the 1990 CFE Treaty but promised that those reductions which the treaty requires by November 1995 would be carried out on schedule. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. GDP DOWN BUT SOME SECTORS SHOW GROWTH. Russia's GDP fell by 4% in the first six months of 1995, while industrial output declined 7%, AFP reported citing Goskomstat statistics on 12 July. However, the fall in GDP seems to have bottomed out in April. In June, GDP rose 3% over the previous month and industrial output was up 2%. It was the second straight month in which Russia's basic growth indicators were positive. GDP and industrial output rose 1% in May. Industrial growth was strongest in the heavy industry sector, notably in steel, where production in the first six months was up 12% over the same period in 1994. In light industry, however, output plummeted 38% in the same period. In 1994, industrial output fell 21% and GDP as a whole dropped by 15%. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIA/CHINA LAUNCH FERRY SERVICE ACROSS AMUR. Russia and China launched a car ferry service across the Amur River between the far-eastern border cities of Nizhnelenionskoe and Tongjiang, AFP reported on 12 July. The ferry service follows an agreement signed by Chinese Premier Li Peng in Moscow last month to build a bridge across another section of the Amur, linking the Heilongjiang city of Heihe with Russia's Blagoveshensk. The bridge will provide a rail and road link in a region where Soviet and Chinese troops clashed in 1969, leaving several hundred people dead. The flourishing border trade in this region only began in the late 1980s. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. DROUGHT THREATENS HARVEST. The National Institute of Agricultural Economics said severe drought in key agricultural regions will reduce Russia's grain harvest to 70 million tons, below earlier forecasts and last year's 81.3 million tons, agencies reported on 12 July. In Ryazan Oblast alone, the damage caused by the drought is estimated at up to 260 billion rubles ($58 million), Russian TV reported on 11 July. The fall harvest is expected to bring in some 800,000 tons of grain less than anticipated. About 25% of the planted crops have been destroyed, which will create food and fodder grain shortages this year. The fodder shortage will cause a fall in meat production. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA STRATEGY SESSION IN TALUKAN? Tajik Deputy Prime Minister Makhmadsaid Ubaidulaev said acts of "terrorism" against enlisted men and law enforcement officials is increasing in Dushanbe and other parts of Tajikistan, Russian TV reported on 11 July. Ubaidulaev also alleged opposition field commanders met in Talukan, Afghanistan from 2-5 July to discuss strategies and tactics for conducting subversive activities within Tajikistan. The meeting, he claimed, was presided over by Islamic Renaissance Party leader Said Abdullo Nuri who held talks with Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov in Kabul in May. Since the beginning of the month, 13 Tajik police officers have been killed, AFP reported on 11 July. The number of Tajik rebels killed during that time is unclear. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. CIS BLACK SEA FLEET COMMANDER COMPLAINS TO CRIMEA. Black Sea Fleet commander Eduard Baltin has criticized Crimean local authorities for hindering the normal functioning of the fleet, Russian Public TV reported on 12 July. According to Baltin, Sevastopol authorities have asked the fleet to evacuate many of the premises it occupies on an obvious pretext. The city's tax inspectors are also creating unnecessary problems for the fleet, he said. Baltin commented that the fleet pays trillions of karbovantsy into Ukraine's budget because it is charged 15 different taxes, while all of its financing comes from Russia. -- Ustina Markus, 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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