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No. 136, Part I, 14 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 RUSSIA SKEPTICAL OF UN RESOLUTION ON SREBRENICA. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Grigorii Karasin criticized a French proposal to retake the Muslim enclave of Srebrenica from Bosnian Serb forces, Western and Russian agencies reported on 13 July. Karasin told journalists that "UN forces cannot and should not undertake actions which would drag them into the conflict." Karasin reiterated Moscow's stance that the only way to resolve the Bosnian conflict is through negotiations, and he repeated Russian objections to the use of NATO airpower. A high-ranking Russian diplomat later told Interfax that a UN Security Council resolution calling for the restoration of the Srebrenica "safe haven" would likely prove "ineffective," because it would require the use of force to reopen a corridor to the town. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. GROZNY NEGOTIATIONS STALL. Talks between Russian and Chechen negotiators were adjourned on 13 July, so that the Chechen delegation could consult with Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev, Russian Television reported. Although the talks have reportedly made progress, the issue of Chechnya's status remains unresolved. Chechen negotiators continue to insist on the recognition of Chechnya's independence, while their Russian counterparts contend that the issue should be resolved only after the election of a new Chechen government. The deadlock threatens to scuttle the talks. Russian Interior Minister General Anatolii Kulikov, a member of the Russian negotiating team, told journalists that if the Chechen delegation returns from these consultations without a positive response to the Russian proposals, then the operations to disarm the "illegal armed formations" of Chechen fighters will resume. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. KOVALEV TESTIFIES IN CHECHNYA CASE. Outspoken human rights advocate and Chechen war critic Sergei Kovalev testified before the Constitutional Court on 13 July, Russian media reported. Kovalev argued that the November and December 1994 decrees authorizing the military campaign in Chechnya led to thousands of deaths and clear violations of fundamental rights and freedoms, which the constitution does not permit even under a state of emergency. Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Shakhrai, who is representing the president and government in the case, noted a certain irony in Kovalev's court appearance in that members of the parliament's legal team, including Communist deputy Anatolii Lukyanov, called Kovalev as an expert witness despite voting to remove him from the post of Duma human rights commissioner in March as a result of his controversial statements on Chechnya, Ekho Moskvy reported. Testimony in the case will resume on 17 July. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. OGONEK: POTENTIAL FOR VOTING FRAUD HIGH. Local electoral commissions charged with running the upcoming Duma elections will be controlled by the local executive branches, according to Aleksandr Sobyanin, an expert at the Russian "Politics" Foundation, in an interview with Ogonek no. 28 (July 1995). Sobyanin contends that the local executives record election returns with a pencil and erase any undesirable figures when the precinct reports are tabulated. No fixing is done at the polling stations since there are usually observers present. He claims that the Central Electoral Commission is also in effect controlled by Russian President Boris Yeltsin, even though the Duma and Federation Council are represented on it. Sobyanin, a former member of this commission, said that it only rubber stamps the results it receives and does not actually check the precinct reports. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. DUMA BEGINS HEARINGS ON START II TREATY. The Duma has begun closed hearings on the ratification of the START II treaty, Segodnya reported on 13 July. According to Aleksandr Piskunov, deputy chairman of the Duma's Defense Committee, the hearings have so far generated support for the treaty, provided certain conditions are met, such as the unconditional implementation of the 1972 ABM treaty. Piskunov also noted that economic considerations will make it difficult to implement the reductions envisioned in the treaty within the specified ten-year time frame, although he added that further reductions in nuclear forces "are already necessary." He questioned President Yeltsin's judgment in submitting the treaty for ratification only shortly before the December parliamentary elections, expressing concern that the treaty could become a "token" in the "political struggle." -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIA MAY DUMP MORE NUCLEAR WASTE AT SEA. Yevgenii Stomatyuk, chairman of the Primorsk Krai administration's natural resources committee, said on 13 July that Russia might be forced to renew dumping of nuclear waste into the Sea of Japan unless storage facilities are soon built, Russian and Western agencies reported. He said Russian tankers are full of waste and Russia lacks the means to dispose of the liquid. He added that a dispute between the Nuclear Power Ministry and the krai administration was holding up construction of the storage tanks. Last year, Japan and other Asian countries protested after nuclear submarines from the Pacific Fleet dumped over 200,000 gallons of radioactive waste into the Sea of Japan. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. DUMA PASSES LAW ON SUPPORT FOR LOCAL PRESS. The Duma passed a draft law allocating 280 billion rubles ($62 million) from the federal budget to regional and city newspapers, Russian TV and Russian Public Television reported on 13 July. The law was adopted on all three readings in one session, with 243 deputies voting in favor and none voting against. Duma Press and Information Committee Chairman Mikhail Poltoranin said the law would benefit small newspapers that currently are almost completely controlled by local administrations. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. ZORIN LIKELY TO BE NEW DIRECTOR OF FSB. The most likely candidate to replace Sergei Stepashin as director of the Federal Security Service (FSB) is Viktor Zorin, the FSB's current head of counterintelligence, Ekho Moskvy reported on 13 July. If he is appointed, there is likely to be little reorganization of the service. The appointment is expected next week. Stepashin's deputy, Anatolii Safonov, is currently the acting director. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. GOVERNMENT CRISIS GROWING IN CHUVASHIYA. Conflict between Chuvash President Nikolai Fedorov and the Chuvash State Soviet is growing following the Constitutional Court's 10 July decision to strike down the region's electoral law, Russian media reported on 13 July. The court ruled that the constitution requires at least a 25% turnout for any elections in the Russian Federation. In November 1994, under an amended electoral law, 14 deputies (out of 47 total) were elected to the State Soviet despite turnout in their districts below 25%, Russian TV reported. Fedorov, who has long been at odds with the anti-reformist majority in the soviet, announced that the ruling gave him the right to dissolve the soviet, Segodnya reported. However, the court's decision, published in Rossiiskaya gazeta on 13 July, states that the ruling does not affect the legitimacy of the Chuvash State Soviet or the authority of 33 deputies who were elected with sufficient voter turnout. Segodnya noted that Fedorov, who served as Russian justice minister from 1990 to 1993, surely understood the ruling but was dissatisfied because the 33 deputies remaining in the soviet will still be able to override his vetoes. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. DUMA ADOPTS NEW PROCEDURE FOR CONSIDERING BUDGET. The parliament's lower house has adopted a law on the procedure for considering the 1996 budget, Rossiiskie vesti reported on 14 July. The new law calls for three readings of the draft, instead of the previous four. The government's draft must be submitted to the Duma by 1 August, along with a preliminary report on the socioeconomic situation during the current year and a forecast for developments in 1996. The Central Bank must submit a draft of monetary and credit policy for 1996 by 15 September, and the draft budget must receive its first reading by 10 October. Within one month after the Law on the 1996 Federal Budget is adopted by the Duma, the government must submit to the parliament a draft of anticipated quarterly income and expense distribution. The government is also required to give monthly briefings and submit comprehensive quarterly progress reports to the Duma. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. DUMA BOOSTS SOCIAL SPENDING. The Duma passed a number of laws on 12 July increasing social spending, Segodnya reported the following day. A new version of the Law on the Subsistence Minimum was approved, which provides for all families with a joint income below the poverty line to claim benefits. (An earlier draft was rejected by the Federation Council.) The legislation will cost an estimated 14.2 trillion rubles in spring 1995 prices. The deputies also passed amendments to the Law on Employment in the second and third readings and amendments to legislation on protection for citizens affected by radiation from Chernobyl. The latter stipulates continued support for those involved in the clean-up operation and those living in contaminated areas but annuls foreign trade privileges for funds and organizations set up following the disaster. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. GOVERNMENT COMMISSION DEBATES WAGE ARREARS. At a session of the government commission on payments problems, the Labor Ministry said wage arrears totaled 6 trillion rubles by 1 July, Segodnya reported on 13 July. The problem is mainly attributable to interenterprise debt, but the state also owes 1 trillion in delayed wages to the defense industry, agro-industrial sector, and mining industry, according to the paper. Finance Minister Vladimir Panskov said the situation has been exacerbated by the fact that defense enterprises are producing more goods than the government has ordered and that the "power" ministries have given their personnel pay increases not envisaged in the budget. Segodnya also noted that the Defense Ministry is financing the Chechen war at the expense of defense procurement, capital construction, and research and development. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. FOREIGN TRADE TURNOVER UP. Russia's foreign trade turnover equaled $59.9 billion (exports--$35.6 billion; imports--$24.3 billion) during the first half of 1995, which is a 19% increase compared with the same period last year, Segodnya reported on 13 July. Of the $59.9 billion, $46.7 billion involved trade with countries other than former Soviet republics and $13.2 billion trade with CIS states. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. FOREIGN FIRMS MUST REPORT INCOME. A new Russian tax law requires foreign corporations to indicate to the State Tax Service income sources, Segodnya reported on 13 July. The corporations will also be required to open accounts in Russian banks in order to pay the taxes. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. RETAIL PRICES RISE IN SECOND QUARTER. Russian retail prices rose by an average of 25% (8.5% in April; 7.9% in May; 6.7% in June) during the second quarter of 1995, Rossiiskaya gazeta reported on 14 July, citing Goskomstat. During the first half of 1995, retail prices increased by an average of 78%. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA DEMONSTRATIONS IN TURKMENISTAN. An unprecedented protest march took place on 12 July in Turkmenistan. An estimated 1,000 protesters, mainly ethnic Turkmen, marched in Ashgabat calling for new presidential and parliamentary elections, Izvestiya reported the next day. The demonstrators distributed leaflets calling on local ethnic Russians to pay no heed to possible rumors that the march was directed against the "Russian speaking part of our country." Calling on them to "be on our side," the protesters appealed to local Russians to stop being patient with the "lies and promises" of Turkmenistan's president, Saparmurad Niyazov. On 13 July Reuters reported that hundreds of police and security officers trailed the estimated one-hour-long march. According to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Turkmen Service, police arrested some protesters; how many is unclear, however. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. SENTENCES HANDED DOWN IN INTEFER CASE. The Tajik Supreme Court returned death sentences for three men involved in the assassination of businessmen Vladimir Nirman, Russian Television reported on 13 July. The case was widely publicized in Tajikistan because Nirman was head of the Interfer Tajik-American joint venture. Investigators determined that Nirman was killed for around $3,000. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. SINKIANG DELEGATION IN BISHKEK. On 13 July an official delegation from Sinkiang arrived in Bishkek, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported the same day. It reached an agreement with Kyrgyz authorities under which Kyrgyzstan will supply the autonomous region with electricity in exchange for petroleum. -- 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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