|The only thing one knows about human nature is that it changes. - Oscar Wilde|
No. 139, Part I, 19 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 APPEARS HEALTHY ON TV. President Boris Yeltsin appeared healthy in his first television appearance since being hospitalized on 11 July, agencies reported. Yeltsin's appearance now may have been motivated by claims that a photograph of the president released on 14 July was actually a picture of him during an April vacation. Yeltsin's aides claimed that the photo showed him in his hospital room, but Western agencies pointed out that it was identical to shots of Yeltsin taken while he was in Kislovodsk. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIA WARY OF ALTERING UN MANDATE IN BOSNIA. Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev stated that Russia opposes any alteration of the current mandate under which UN peace- keepers operate in Bosnia, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 July. Referring to plans to reinforce the peacekeepers, Kozyrev said that while protecting those UN peacekeepers who are threatened by the recent escalation of hostilities in Bosnia is "a top priority," actions to achieve this goal "should not be confused with plans to bring in forces which would not fulfill a peacekeeping but a fighting role." In connection with the upcoming 21 July meeting of foreign and defense ministers of the Contact Group, the acting Russian ambassador to the UN, Vasilii Sidorov, told journalists that Russia would not support any attempt to change the procedures which govern the use of NATO air power to support the peacekeepers. Some Western commentators have suggested that NATO should be empowered to launch air strikes without the prior approval of the UN, as is now required. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. GROZNY DELEGATION HEAD MEETS WITH YELTSIN. Minister for Nationalities Vyacheslav Mikhailov, the lead negotiator at the talks in Grozny, met with President Yeltsin and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin on 18 July, Russian TV reported. After the meeting, the president's press secretary, Sergei Medvedev, said Yeltsin had approved a new Russian proposal on the status of Chechnya, which Mikhailov will bring back to Grozny for the scheduled reopening of negotiations on 20 July. Chechnya's status remains the main stumbling block in the Russian- Chechen negotiations. Also on 18 July, an opinion poll published in Segodnya showed that only 26% of respondents said the Chechnya should be forced to remain in the Russian Federation and 74% said it should not. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. FINAL ARGUMENTS IN CHECHNYA CASE. The Constitutional Court heard final arguments in the case concerning secret presidential and governmental decrees authorizing the military campaign in Chechnya, Russian media reported on 18 July. Anatolii Lukyanov spoke on behalf of Duma deputies challenging the legality of the November and December 1994 decrees, and Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Shakhrai, representing the president and the government in the case, argued that the deployment of armed forces in Chechnya was not only legal but essential to protect Russia's vital national interests. Judge Valerii Zorkin tried unsuccessfully to extend the hearings to allow more testimony from expert witnesses, but he was overruled by his colleagues. Judges will now consider the case in closed session before handing down a decision. Parliamentary representatives have vowed to take the case to regular court if they are dissatisfied with the Constitutional Court's ruling, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIA TO JOIN COUNCIL OF EUROPE IN 1996. Council of Europe General Secretary Daniel Tarschys said on 18 July that Russia's application for membership would probably be accepted early next year, Ekho Moskvy reported. Tarschys made the statement during a meeting with Federation Council Deputy Speaker Valerian Viktorov, adding that Moscow's recent decision to pursue a political settlement to the Chechen conflict had cleared the way for Russian membership in the council. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. NTV HEAD: CASE AGAINST "KUKLY" DESIGNED TO INTIMIDATE THE MEDIA. Igor Malashenko, director general of NTV, accused authorities of bringing charges against the popular satirical puppet show "Kukly" in order to intimidate the mass media, Russian media reported on 18 July. On 14 July, the Procurator General's Office opened a case against the show under article 131 of the Criminal Code for allegedly insulting the honor and dignity of the president and high-ranking government officials. Malashenko said the criminal case was actually aimed at punishing the network for its coverage of events in Chechnya, Russian Public TV reported. On 13 July, procurators opened a separate investigation surrounding a recent NTV interview with Chechen field commander Shamil Basaev. Malashenko said NTV will continue to air "Kukly" on Saturday evenings despite the charges against the show. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. RYZHKOV TO LEAD NEW ELECTORAL ALLIANCE. Nikolai Ryzhkov, former Soviet prime minister under Mikhail Gorbachev, announced that he will lead the electoral bloc "Power to the People" in the December 1995 parliamentary elections, Radio Rossii reported on 18 July. On 17 July, Ryzhkov agreed to top the party list of Sergei Baburin's nationalist Russian Public Union (ROS). "Power to the People" unites the ROS and the movements Fatherland, For Popular Self-Government, the Patriotic Union of Women, and other organizations. Valentin Varennikov, one of the leaders of the August 1991 coup, is also on the new bloc's organizing committee. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. LEFT-CENTER BLOC FOUNDING CONGRESS POSTPONED. Ivan Rybkin has announced that the congress of the Regions of Russia organization, planned for 22 July and intended to serve as the founding congress of his left-center bloc, has been postponed until late August or September, Rossiiskaya gazeta reported on 18 July. The reason given is to "think things over." Unlike Chernomyrdin who has set up a right-center bloc, Rybkin has had considerable difficulty finding allies. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. CONCERN OVER NATIONAL FACTOR IN CAMPAIGN. The official Rossiiskaya gazeta expressed concern over the use of nationality issues in the upcoming parliamentary campaign in its 18 July issue. The paper cited numerous examples of campaigning for the national vote, including an alliance between Yegor Gaidar and Aleksandr Yakovlev's political bloc with Ukrainian, Polish, and Jewish organizations. The article quoted Yevgenii Kim, the leader of the Confederation of Korean Associations, as saying that "those attempts are very dangerous." He warned that candidates seeking a seat in the Duma by discussing national differences really have their own goals in mind. Kim, however, named Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's Our Home is Russia as one bloc that does not list national associations as its partners. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. CHOLERA BACTERIA IN VOLGOGRAD, NONE SO FAR ILL. The cholera bacteria has been detected in Russia for the second time in a week, this time in Volgograd, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 July. Olga Sukacheva, the chief doctor of epidemic services, told the news service that they had brought the town's 44 affected water reservoirs under control, and planned to chlorinate all the sewers. She also said that no cases of a person actually contracting cholera had yet been detected, and that anyone with intestine-related illnesses would be examined. Last week, a case of cholera had been reported in Rostov-on-Don, on the border with Ukraine, which is suffering a cholera epidemic. -- Alaina Lemon, OMRI, Inc. MINERS THREATEN TO STRIKE AGAIN. Miners at the joint-stock company Primorskugol have decided to strike because they again have not received money from the state for their wages since April, when they received 50 million rubles for past wages in arrears. Radio Rossii reported that the date of the strike depends on the outcome of an upcoming shareholders' meeting. Meanwhile, Primorskugol's main customer, Dalenergo, has announced a 300% increase in rates for electricity consumed by enterprises. -- Alaina Lemon, OMRI, Inc. INTERNAL AFFAIRS MINISTRY SUPPORTS LAW ON ORGANIZED CRIME. In a briefing at the Internal Affairs Ministry on 18 July, the ministry spokesman blamed the lack of "normal laws" for the failure to prosecute organized crime leaders who they say are exerting great influence in the commercial sphere. The ministry is pushing for the passage of a new bill on organized crime, under which a person could be imprisoned for managing or being a member of a criminal group, even if they had not committed a crime. The ministry did not specify how a criminal group would be defined nor how to determine that an individual is a member of such a group. Western experts who have examined the law have not voiced concern that it might be a violation of civil rights, Trud reported on 17 July. -- Alaina Lemon, OMRI, Inc. MENATEP INCREASES BID FOR RED OCTOBER. Russia's Menatep banking group increased the amount of money it is offering for shares in the Red October chocolate factory from $7.50 to $9.50 per share on 18 July, Western agencies reported. The move is the first hostile takeover bid on the emerging Russian capital market. Menatep launched its bid through its food company, Koloss, last week with an offer to acquire 51% of the shares. Menatep holds less than 2% of the shares. Large shareholders have been pressing for a higher offer, saying that the bid undervalued the company. To acquire a majority holding, Menatep must buy 3.2 million shares for a total of $30.4 million. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. OIL AND GAS EXTRACTION DECLINES. Russia extracted 153.4 million tons of oil and gas in the first half of the year, 2.3% less than in the same period in 1994, AFP reported on 18 July, citing Goskomstat figures. The numbers showed that in the first half of 1995, 291.9 billion cubic meters of gas were extracted, 2.5% less than in the same period one year ago. The amount of oil refined fell by 3% to 91.7 million tons. The figure for June alone was 15.1 million tons. In June, Russia produced 25.2 million tons of unrefined oil and gas compared with 26.2 million tons in May, and 41.5 billion cubic meters of natural gas, down from 46.7 billion cubic meters in May. From January to June, Russia exported 46.3 million tons of oil to countries outside the CIS, which is 6.4% more than the amount for the same period in 1994. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. INFLATION RATE INDEX TOPS 100%. During the second week in July, Russia's general inflation rate index amounted to 101.4%, Rossiiskaya gazeta reported on 19 July. Since the beginning of the year, it has totaled 181%. The commodities tariffs increased twice as fast as the prices for goods and food. The average cost of the 19 basic food items reached 204,000 rubles ($45) a month. The price rise of 1.8% for goods and commodities in Russia's central region was the largest increase in the country; in Western Siberia and the Far East costs rose by 1.1%. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA TAJIK OPPOSITION CONVERGES ON TEHRAN. In a development as surprising as the sudden appearance of Tajikistan's president in Tehran on 16 July, the Islamic Renaissance Movement's (IRM) leader, Said Abdullo Nuri, arrived in Tehran on 18 July. Other Tajik opposition officials will join Nuri in Tehran to decide whether to hold peace talks with Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov, who is continuing his official visit to Iran, according to an 18 July AFP report. Rakhmonov expressed a desire to meet with Islamic opposition leaders in Tehran earlier in the week. On 16 July, IRM vice president Akbar Turadzhonzoda told AFP the talks would not go forward unless the "unavailable" UN special envoy Ramiro Piriz-Ballon and Abdullo Nuri were present. Two days later, Turadzhonzoda said his group will only hold talks with Rakhmonov if officials of other opposition groups also participated; their expected arrival suggests Dushanbe has accepted this new condition. According to Turadzhonzoda, the Tajik government has refused until now to meet with any opposition groups except the IRM. If the talks do go forward, they will be held under Iranian auspices on the night of 19 July "at the latest," he said. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. IRANIAN LOAN TO TAJIKISTAN. Iran agreed to give Tajikistan a $10 million loan and expand bilateral cooperation, Reuters reported on 18 July, citing Tehran radio. The station noted that 12 cooperation agreements were signed; according to earlier media reports, flights between Dushanbe and Tehran are to begin, Tajikistan will open an embassy in Iran's capital, and several expert committees will explore areas of possible cooperation. In other news, Tajik Prime Minister Dzhamshed Karimov told a World Bank delegation on 17 July his republic will end all its price controls by the end of this month, AFP reported the same day. Citing ITAR-TASS, the agency noted the Tajik government also signed a series of agreements on economic reform, including a privatization program. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. CIS MORE EU FOOD AID FOR CIS. The EU foreign ministers agreed in principle on 17 July to continue food aid this winter to Armenia, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan but questions remain on how to fund the $260 million program, Reuters reported the next day. -- Michael Mihalka, 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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