|Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead|
No. 137, Part I, 17 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 IN HOSPITAL FOR ANOTHER WEEK. President Boris Yeltsin will remain in the hospital for an additional week and has canceled all appointments through 23 July, including a planned trip to Norway that was still scheduled to go ahead after Yeltsin checked into the hospital last week, agencies report. Earlier reports said Yeltsin planned to leave the hospital on 17 July. The Kremlin has refused to allow television cameras into his room to dampen speculation about the true state of his health. ITAR-TASS released a photograph of the president on 14 July, but it provided few details of Yeltsin's condition. The official Kremlin photographer is still waiting for a chance to take a picture, AFP reported. Russian television stations continue to report that the president is working from his bed. Yeltsin's wife, in a rare public appearance, said her husband is fine and accused the media of "verbal sadism," in its coverage of his illness, Reuters reported. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS SET FOR 17 DECEMBER. President Yeltsin signed a decree officially setting 17 December as election day, removing lingering doubt over whether the elections will be held, Ekho Moskvy reported on 14 July. Although the December date is not a surprise, Yeltsin's announcement came earlier than expected since the law allowed him until 17 August to set a date, Segodnya reported on 15 July. Political parties and blocs now have the right to hold meetings to nominate candidates and collect the 200,000 signatures necessary to gain registration; they must have those signatures ready 50 days before the elections. On 14 July, the Duma adopted the law defining the boundaries of the single-mandate districts. Candidates for those seats cannot begin collecting signatures until the law is signed by the president, a step the electoral law requires by 18 August, Russian Public TV reported. The parliament and the president have yet to determine whether elections will be held to the Federation Council. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. LEBED TO RUN FOR DUMA IN TULA. Lt. Gen. Aleksandr Lebed, former commander of the 14th Army in Moldova and a leading figure in the Congress of Russian Communities (KRO), announced that he will run for the State Duma in a single-member constituency in Tula, AFP reported on 15 July. Lebed will discuss his campaign plans with regional KRO leaders in Tula later this week. He refused to comment on speculation that he will run for president in 1996. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. BUSINESS SECTOR PLANS POLITICAL ACTIVITY. Business leaders will participate in the parliamentary elections mainly by providing financial support to candidates, according to a roundtable discussion sponsored by the Trade and Industry Chamber and the Russian Association of Political Technologies, Segodnya reported on 14 July. Participants in the talks estimated that winning one seat would cost at least $200,000-$250,000. Business circles will mostly concentrate their attention on single- member districts. Covering the same conference, Kommersant-Daily reported that most business people have so far paid little attention to the campaign. Nevertheless, the speakers at the conference, mainly political scientists, believe that business will play a leading role in it. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. GROZNY TALKS POSTPONED AGAIN. The Russian-Chechen negotiations in Grozny have again adjourned after intensive talks on 15 July failed to produce agreement on a political accord, Russian and international agencies reported. Both delegations will carry out consultations during a planned three-day break. The Russian delegation head, Minister for Nationalities Vyacheslav Mikhailov, said on his return to Moscow that while some disagreement persists over the issue of Chechnya's future status, he expects a final political agreement to be signed soon after the scheduled resumption of talks on 19 July. An additional reason for the delay in the talks is the sudden illness of Chechen lead negotiator Usman Imaev, who has a serious viral infection. Mikhailov said it would not be expedient to continue talks without Imaev. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. ZHIRINOVSKY DENOUNCES GROZNY NEGOTIATIONS. In a 15 July press release, Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky demanded that the negotiations in Grozny be terminated, Radio Mayak reported. The statement described the Chechen negotiators as "bandits," and also called for the expulsion from Russia of the OSCE mission in Chechnya, which Zhirinovsky accused of acting as a "middleman" for Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. EVERY SIXTH FAMILY AFFECTED BY NARCOTICS PROBLEMS. Experts from the Institute for Social and Political Research of the Academy of Sciences estimate that every sixth family in Russia is affected by addiction to illegal drugs, Ekho Moskvy reported on 16 July. The experts said the highest concentrations of addicts are found in port cities and regions where illegal drugs are grown. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. PROCURATOR OPENS CASE AGAINST SATIRICAL TV SHOW. The Procurator General's Office opened a criminal case against the popular NTV satirical show "Kukly" (Puppets) for allegedly insulting the honor and dignity of the president (Article 131 of the Criminal Code), Kommersant- Daily reported on 15 July. At issue is a sketch portraying a puppet of President Yeltsin begging on a train and carrying a baby resembling Yeltsin's top bodyguard Aleksandr Korzhakov. Another controversial sketch featured Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin selling parts of a gas boiler. Kommersant commented that the "extreme stupidity" of the comedy sketches had provoked "equivalent stupidity" from the authorities. On the same day, Viktor Shenderovich, the author of the sketches, suggested that prosecutors hire "qualified jurists" to explain the difference between a person and a puppet to them, Ekho Moskvy reported. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. STEPPE REGION EVICTS CAUCASIANS. The administration of Perelyubskom Region in Saratovskii Oblast has forbidden Armenians, Azerbaijanis, and other Caucasians and non-Russians from obtaining temporary residence papers. It has also instructed the head of the regional police to resettle all "southerners" who have no permanent residence papers. On 15 July, a reporter for Izvestiya wrote that nearly 100 people had already left the area, that all points of trade belonging to them were closed, and that only "blacks" were being asked to show their documents. Local Russians demanded the new policy saying they had suffered a poor harvest and that few peasants have received wages, while a few Caucasian traders own stores. The head of the administration and the local procurator acknowledged that the moves were not legal but said ignoring mass opinion could lead to pogroms. -- Alaina Lemon, OMRI, Inc. LUKIN ON NATO EXPANSION. In an interview with Segodnya published on 15 July, Vladimir Lukin, chairman of the Duma Committee on International Affairs, criticized both Russian and Western approaches to the issue of NATO expansion. Lukin contended that there is no "vacuum of power" in Central and Eastern Europe, because neither Germany nor Russia presents a real threat to the countries of the region. Hence the question of NATO expansion is not urgent, he argued, and there is sufficient time to carefully consider alternative security structures for Europe. Lukin criticized Western leaders for publicly declaring that Russia has no veto over NATO expansion, a view which he termed "legally correct" but "politically senseless." He also lambasted the Yeltsin administration, saying Russian proposals to expand the OSCE as an alternative to NATO expansion are "unrealistic" -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. PRAVDA CRITICIZES START-2 TREATY. In an article published on 14 July, Pravda criticized the provisions of the START-2 Treaty. The paper argued that because of the collapse of the Warsaw Pact, the impending expansion of NATO, and continuing economic difficulties in Russia, the country has no alternative but to rely on strong nuclear forces to ensure its national security. In those circumstances, the paper questioned the sharp reduction in nuclear forces called for by the treaty, especially cuts in land-based ballistic missiles, which are the heart of the Russian nuclear force. Hearings on the ratification of the START-2 treaty are currently underway in the Duma. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. CLOSER MILITARY TIES WITH SOUTH AFRICA. South African Defense Minister Joe Modise and his Russian counterpart Pavel Grachev signed an agreement on closer military cooperation in Moscow on 14 July, Russian and Western agencies reported. The ties will include exchanges of military delegations, joint exercises, and training. The two countries will also launch a joint project to develop Russian jet engines for South Africa's French-built Mirage fighters. Modise, the former commander of the African National Congress' Spear of the Nation, underwent military training in the Soviet Union in 1964. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIAN SPACE BOOSTERS ARRIVE IN U.S. Two Russian NK-33 rocket engines arrived at the Aerojet plant in Sacramento on 14 July to undergo a series of tests, a company press release reported. Built in Samara by the Samara State Scientific and Production Enterprise, the NK-33 was designed some 25 years ago as part of the Soviet Union's efforts to put a man on the moon. If the tests are successful, Aerojet intends to modify the engines for use in the American space program. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. GOVERNMENT PROPOSES WAGE RAISE WITHOUT PRINTING EXTRA MONEY. The government has approved and sent to the Duma a draft law raising the minimum monthly wage from 48,700 rubles ($10.70) to 55,000 rubles ($12.10), Labor Minister Gennadii Melikyan told reporters on 15 July. The increase would take effect on 1 August. According to Segodnya, Deputy Finance Minister Anron Siluanov said the raise was funded by channeling additional budget revenues accrued from inflation. Siluanov said the raise would not affect financial stabilization because it will not be funded by printing additional money, as previous raises have been. -- Alaina Lemon, OMRI, Inc. DUMA PASSES LAND CODE. After failing once in March and twice in June because of opposition from conservative Agrarian and Communist party deputies, the Duma passed the Russian Federation Land Code on its first reading on 14 June, Segodnya reported. Prepared by the Duma Agrarian Committee, where the Russian Agrarian Party members constitute the majority, the draft Land Code provides for extremely severe restrictions on private land ownership which could threaten the entire process of reforms in Russia. A whole range of bills in connection with the code will have to be passed before effective implementation can take place. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. OVER 2,500 BANKS OPERATE IN RUSSIA. According to the Russia's Central Bank department on banking supervision, 2,568 banks were registered in the country as of 1 July which includes 1,556 share-based banks and 1,012 incorporated banks, Kommersant-Daily reported on 14 July. Since January, 775 banks have been granted hard currency licenses. Due to banking legislation violations, 71 banks have had their licenses withdrawn since the beginning of the year. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. RUBLE RALLIES BY 15 POINTS TO DOLLAR. The ruble rallied by 15 points to 4,550 to $1 in MICEX trading on 14 July, Russian and Western agencies reported. The volume of trading amounted to $65.62 million on initial demand of $58.76 million and supply of $105.62 million. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA ASHGABAT PROTESTORS BRANDED DRUG ADDICTS. Turkmen authorities have attempted to discredit a 12 July protest march in Ashgabat, international media reported. An unidentified spokesman for the Turkmen Foreign Ministry told Reuters on 14 July that the protesters did not have political demands and "were drunk people high on drugs, petty hooligans." Turkmen Interior Minister Kurganmukhamed Kasymov and State Security Service Chief Saparmurad Seidov said on Turkmen national television that the protesters "were trying to avoid their criminal responsibility for engaging in the drug trade," Reuters reported citing Interfax. According to Turkmen security sources, 100 people took part in the march, while Interfax estimated that there were between 300 and 500 participants. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. RAKHMONOV IN TEHRAN. In the first such visit of its kind, Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov arrived in Tehran on 16 July for three days of talks with his Iranian counterpart Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, AFP reported. The talks are aimed at strengthening bilateral economic ties. Rakhmonov called his visit "historical," while Rafsanjani described Tajikistan as an "important" country that has a great religious and cultural affinity to Iran. He also said Iran is determined to revive the earlier cooperation that began after the collapse of the Soviet Union but later stalled because of Tajikistan's internal situation. Tehran had supported the Tajik opposition against Rakhmonov following a 1992 coup in which he swept aside a coalition of democratic and Islamic groups. Since the spring of 1994, Iran and Russia have tried to bring an end to the intra-Tajik conflict. Rakhmonov's visit is a likely cause for concern among the Tehran-supported Tajik Islamic opposition as it may signal that Iran is drifting towards support for the neo-communist Tajik government. -- 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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