|When in doubt, tell the truth. - Mark Twain|
No. 138, Part I, 18 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 LANDMARK TALKS WITH NATO . . . Vitalii Churkin, Russia's ambassador to NATO, met in Brussels with the ambassadors of NATO's 16 member-states on 17 July in the first of a series of meetings that aim to define Russia's "special relationship" with the alliance. Churkin said the meeting went well and that Russia's relationship would be "an evolutionary one," Reuters reported. He confirmed that he had repeated his country's strong objections to NATO expansion. A NATO official said that one priority was to get Russia more involved the alliance's activities. He added that Churkin had suggested a "hot line" between Moscow and NATO headquarters. The Russians also indicated they would sign the so-called secrecy agreement, which is a pre-condition for occupying offices at the headquarters in Brussels. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. . . . BUT NO SYMPATHY FOR CHANGING THE CFE TREATY. Churkin also brought up Russia's objections to the flanks limitations of the 1990 CFE treaty and two generals gave the ambassadors a briefing as to why Russia wanted these limits changed. Western agencies reported that Churkin suggested altering the treaty "to satisfy Russian security concerns in the Caucasus" but was rebuffed by the ambassadors. A NATO official was quoted as saying the alliance could accept "minor amendments" but was not prepared to accept "a fundamental renegotiation of the treaty." -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIA SIGNS INTERIM TRADE ACCORD WITH EU. Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev initialed an interim trade agreement between Russia and the EU on 17 July, Russian and international agencies reported. The temporary accord implements the economic provisions of a broader EU- Russia partnership agreement signed in June 1994. Its implementation had been frozen since January because of European objections to Russian military intervention in Chechnya. According to Russian TV, the EU is Russia's largest trading partner, accounting for 37% of foreign trade. The accord aims to reduce tariffs on both sides, and spokesmen claimed it will eliminate EU import quotas on Russian products by 1998, except for textiles, steel, and nuclear fuel. Currently, however, the EU imposes quotas on over 20 categories of Russian products. The agreement calls for free trade talks to begin only after 1998. Following the signing ceremony, Kozyrev praised the interim accord, but added, "it is now necessary to move forward to a permanent agreement." -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. KOZYREV ON BOSNIA. Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev said on 17 July that Russia continues to support a political solution to the Bosnian conflict, saying that the Contact Group, the UN Security Council, and other international actors "are far from having exhausted their diplomatic potential in Bosnia," Russian and Western agencies reported. Kozyrev criticized French suggestions that in the wake of recent Bosnian Serb actions, UN peacekeepers must be dramatically reinforced or else withdrawn altogether. He stressed the Russian preference for an alternative policy between those two extremes, and repeated Russian concerns about the possibility of a military escalation of the conflict. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. CHERNOMYRDIN MEETS WITH GROZNY NEGOTIATORS. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin met on 17 July with Russian negotiators to the Grozny talks, Russian and Western agencies reported. Chernomyrdin reportedly gave his approval to the draft political settlement prepared by the head of the Russian delegation, Minister for Nationalities Vyacheslav Mikhailov. After the meeting, Mikhailov confirmed that the status of Chechnya is the main obstacle to reaching an agreement. He reiterated the Russian federal government's position that Chechnya's future status should be determined "only by those who are elected in the [republic's] upcoming November elections." -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. CONSTITUTIONAL COURT HEARS CLOSING ARGUMENTS IN CHECHNYA CASE. Federation Council deputy Yelena Mizulina gave closing arguments for the upper house of parliament in the Constitutional Court case concerning the legality of secret decrees issued by the president and government that authorized the military campaign in Chechnya, Russian media reported on 17 July. Mizulina said the constitution forbids deploying troops on the territory of the Russian Federation without a declared state of emergency, which requires a presidential decree to be published and approved by the Council. On the same day, Constitutional Court Chairman Vladimir Tumanov announced that the court had denied parliamentary requests to call Defense Minister Pavel Grachev and Federation Council Chairman Vladimir Shumeiko as witnesses in the case. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. NEW HEAD OF PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SERVICE APPOINTED. While still in the hospital, President Boris Yeltsin signed a decree appointing Igor Ignatev to lead the presidential press service, Russian and Western agencies reported on 17 July. Ignatev had previously served as business news chief for ITAR-TASS. On 1 June, ITAR-TASS Director General Vitalii Ignatenko was appointed deputy prime minister in charge of media affairs. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. DEPUTY PROCURATOR DEFENDS CASE AGAINST TV SHOW. An article published in Sovetskaya Rossiya called "Kremlin Tramps," which attacked sketches aired on the NTV satirical show "Puppets," gave the Procurator General's office legal grounds to open a criminal case against the show for allegedly insulting the honor and dignity of high government officials, Deputy Procurator General Vasilii Kolmogorov told ITAR-TASS on 17 July. Kolmogorov said article 108 of the Criminal Code stipulates that articles published in the press may provide the grounds for opening a criminal case. He said investigators had determined that the puppet parody deliberately depicted officials, including President Yeltsin and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, in an offensive manner. Kolmogorov refused to comment on further developments in the case, citing the need to question more witnesses and experts. Under the Criminal Code, possible punishment for the show's creators could include corrective labor for up to two years or a fine and bans from certain kinds of employment. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. RYZHKOV TO LEAD RUSSIAN PUBLIC UNION IN ELECTIONS. Nikolai Ryzhkov, the former Soviet prime minister under Mikhail Gorbachev, will top the list of the Russian Public Union (ROS) for the December parliamentary elections, Ekho Moskvy reported on 17 July. Duma member Sergei Baburin is the leader of the ROS, which is known for its extreme nationalist views. Baburin recently announced his willingness to give up the top places on the party list in order to attract allies. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. LYSENKO ON LOCAL GOVERNMENT. The main question in adopting a law on local government is whether relations between Moscow and the regions should be regulated by the constitution or separate treaties between the capital and each member of the federation, according to Vladimir Lysenko, chairman of the Duma Subcommittee on the Development of Federal Relations, Radio Mayak reported on 16 July. The separate treaty with Tatarstan was very useful in keeping the republic within the Russian Federation but gave it privileges and benefits no other regions or republics have, Lysenko pointed out. Moscow has signed six treaties with other federation members and approximately 50 other regions and republics are pushing for similar treaties. If the Duma does not adopt a law on local government soon, Lysenko said, the regions and republics will start taking power unilaterally. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. LAW GIVES JAILED ACCUSED LEGAL PRIVILEGES. According to a new federal law signed by President Yeltsin, accused prisoners held in isolation have gained the right to certain privileges, Moskovskaya komsomolets reported on 18 July. Such prisoners are now entitled to eight hours of sleep each night without interrogations, searches, or other procedures. They also have the right to an hourly walk within every 24-hour period, the right to meet with a lawyer without being overheard, and the right to unlimited visits. Cells are to be equipped with radios, and wherever possible, a television, refrigerator, and fan. The norm for spatial allocation is to be four square meters per person. Minors are to be allowed longer walks, and jail administrations are to provide areas for sports. -- Alaina Lemon, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIA, IRAN, AND OIL. Russian Deputy Fuel and Oil Minister Anatolii Fomin and Iranian Oil Minister Gholamreza Aghazadeh held talks in Tehran on 17 July, Reuters reported, citing Tehran Radio. According to the station, Iran and Russia are to start cooperating in oil exploration, drilling, and forming joint oil companies. The Iranians are seeking to join forces with Russia for offshore drilling and platform construction in the Caspian; they are also interested in joint activities with Russia in Central Asia. As in its recent deal with France's Total and its recent offer of 11 energy projects for foreign bidding, Tehran's talk of enhanced cooperation with Russia in the energy sector is a direct reply to the U.S. policy of isolating Iran. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. FEDERATION COUNCIL REPORTED TO OPPOSE START-2. The Federation Council will soon recommend to the State Duma that it postpone ratification of the START-2 treaty and call for a renegotiation of its terms, Ekho Moskvy reported on 17 July. The report said that experts on the Council's Foreign Affairs Committee had concluded that the treaty must be revised, because it does not provide "equal military security" for the U.S. and Russia. It also said that Russia cannot afford the cost of dismantling the weapons slated for elimination under its provisions. According to the Russian Constitution, treaties must be ratified by both houses of the Federal Assembly. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIA VIES FOR ENTRY TO WORLD TRADE ORGANIZATION. Russian Foreign Trade Minister Oleg Davydov held talks on 17 July in Geneva with Renato Ruggiero, the director general of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Rossiiskaya gazeta reported on 18 July. Davydov asked Ruggiero to promptly consider Moscow's application for membership, which he said is vital to Russia's transition to a market economy. WTO officials said Russia must present hard evidence of economic change, including reforms in the still heavily subsidized farm sector, before it can be admitted to the organization. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. SIX RUSSIAN BANKS RANK IN WORLD'S TOP 1,000. Six Russian banks rank among the world's top 1,000 financial institutions, according to a British financial publication cited by Finansovye izvestiya on 18 July. Vneshtorgbank, with capital totaling $722 million, ranked 372nd on the list. Sberbank, with $653 million in capital, ranked 414th; Tokobank ($257 million) ranked 749th; Inkombank ($205 million) ranked 850th; Oneximbank ($173 million) ranked 916th; and Imperial Bank ($154 million) placed 969th. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. ECONOMY GETS "C+" FOR FIRST HALF OF 1995. The Russian economy received a grade of C+ for the first half of 1995 from an 18 July Finansovye izvestiya article. The GNP growth rate, hitting an annual 7.9% during the second quarter of 1995, was cited as a reason to forecast a stabilization in the GNP. At the same time, the article noted that manufacturers' prices have developed a tendency to lag behind retail prices, indicating that inflation will not be higher than 5.5-5.7% in July. If the government assumes a stricter monetary policy, inflation could be held to 5-10% during the fourth quarter and the exchange rate could remain between 4,700-5,400 rubles to $1. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. NAZARCHUK: DUTY HIKES WILL NOT RESULT IN FOOD SHORTAGES. Russian Agricultural Minister Aleksandr Nazarchuk said the recent increase in customs duties on imported food will not result in shortages or a dramatic climb in prices, Russian Public TV reported on 17 July. The minister said average price increases for food in the country will remain within "routine inflationary and seasonal limits". -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA ABKHAZ PRESIDENT AT CENTER OF NEW TENSIONS. After talks in Tbilisi on 17 July with UN mediator for Abkhazia Eduard Brunner, Georgian Deputy Prime Minister Tamaz Nadareishvili told Iprinda news agency that Georgia does not need any input from either the UN, the OSCE, or Russia on the question of repatriating an estimated 200,000 Georgian refugees to Abkhazia. He added that if no formal agreement is reached by the end of July on their return, they will do so spontaneously. Nadareishvili objected in particular to Brunner's meeting with Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba, whom he referred to as "a state criminal." Speaking to journalists in Tbilisi last week, Russian Federation Council Chairman Vladimir Shumeiko had indirectly accused Ardzinba of genocide and compared him to Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev. Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev was quoted on 17 July by Russian TV's "Vesti" as agreeing with Shumeiko's negative assessment of Ardzinba. Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev, who signed a friendship and cooperation treaty with Abkhazia in August 1994, condemned Shumeiko's statement, which he said did not reflect the opinion of the entire Federation Council -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. ARMENIA SETS DATE FOR PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS. In line with the provisions of the newly-adopted Armenian Constitution, presidential elections are to take place in Armenia on 21 September 1996, 50 days before President Levon Ter-Petrossyan's mandate expires, Aragil reported on 16 July quoting a 15 July edition of Lragir. -- Liz Fuller, 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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