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No. 142, Part I, 24 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 RYBKIN FORMS LEFT-CENTER BLOC WITHOUT AGRARIANS. State Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin announced the formation of his long-awaited left-center bloc on 21 July, Segodnya reported. The coalition includes about 25 small parties, but not the Agrarian Party of Russia, by far the most important potential member of the coalition. Agrarian Party leader Mikhail Lapshin said his party would campaign independently and he cast doubt on the idea that Rybkin could actually form a bloc, NTV reported on 23 July. In addition to Rybkin, one of the leaders of the new bloc will be Col. Gen. Boris Gromov, the last commander of Soviet forces in Afghanistan and a critic of the Chechen war. The bloc will hold a founding congress by 20 August. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. FEDERATION COUNCIL FAILS TO DISCUSS DUMA LAW ON ITS FUTURE FORMATION. The Federation Council lacked a quorum on 21 July and could not discuss a Duma-approved law calling for future members of the Council to be elected rather than appointed by local executive and legislative branches, Russian Public TV reported. Instead, parliamentary leaders decided to take the unprecedented step of allowing each member to vote in writing even if he or she is outside of Moscow. The results are expected on 27 July. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. DUMA FINISHES SPRING SESSION. The Duma ended its spring session on 21 July and will not meet again until 4 October, Izvestiya reported. The paper said that by adopting bills on the budget and elections, the parliament had begun to establish the basis for a rule-of-law government in Russia. Yabloko's Viktor Sheinis told ITAR-TASS that the spring session wasted too much time on political questions that did not affect legislation. Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov, however, felt the session was more productive than previous ones because of the Duma's vote of no-confidence in the government, and attempts to impeach the president. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. DUMA COMMISSION BLAMES YELTSIN FOR CHECHNYA CRISIS. The Duma Commission on Chechnya released a report blaming President Yeltsin for the crisis in Chechnya and recommending that a special commission be created to impeach him, Ekho Moskvy reported on 21 July. The report held Defense Minister Pavel Grachev and former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev partly responsible for the crisis and also sharply criticized the actions of outspoken human rights defender and war critic Sergei Kovalev. Commission Chairman Stanislav Govorukhin recommended that a constitutional amendment be adopted to exclude Chechnya from the Russian Federation. Four of the commission's 10 members refused to sign Govorukhin's report, including Yabloko member Viktor Sheinis, who called the report's conclusions "unreliable" and "shameful." -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. FORMER SECURITY MINISTER BARANNIKOV DIES. Former Security Minister Viktor Barannikov, 54, died of a heart attack on 21 July, ITAR-TASS reported the next day. Barannikov headed the Security Ministry from January 1992 until July 1993, when he was fired for violating "ethical norms" and "serious deficiencies in work." He was involved in the hard- line parliamentary uprising against Yeltsin in October 1993, after which he served five months in prison before being released under the February 1994 amnesty passed by the Duma. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. DUMA ASKS PRESIDENT NOT TO CHANGE MEDIA LEADERS BEFORE ELECTION. Despite voting down a similar measure on 5 July, the Duma passed a resolution asking the president and government not to replace leaders of the state- owned mass media during the upcoming campaign for parliament and president, Russian TV reported on 21 July. Duma Press and Information Committee Chairman Mikhail Poltoranin said the request, which passed by a vote of 242 to one, applied to the news agencies ITAR-TASS and RIA- Novosti, along with Russian TV (Channel 2) and the government newspaper Rossiiskaya gazeta, whose editor Natalya Polezhaeva was fired earlier this month. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. MOSCOW REFUGEES RESETTLED. Moscow authorities have decided to move all refugees who now live in various Moscow hotels and hostels to a special refugee center in the Solntsevo municipal district, even though residents consider the region to be ecologically dangerous because of nearby industry, Moskovskii komsomolets reported on 22 July. On 21 July, Rossiiskaya gazeta reported that there are currently 500,000 to 1 million immigrants in the country with no clear legal status. The paper laid the blame for the situation on liberal entrance regulations. -- Alaina Lemon, OMRI, Inc. NOT ENOUGH RATIONS FOR RUSSIAN SOLDIERS. The Russian Defense Ministry told Interfax on 21 July that it does not have enough money to feed the troops. The minister has asked for extra funds (the equivalent of $555 to $666 million). In the meantime, soldiers in some areas are eating emergency rations usually saved for war time or other crises. The current budget allocates only 1,721 billion rubles ($380 million) for food, which is only enough for 25% of the soldiers' meals. Bread factories, among other food producers, have stopped delivering to the army garrisons, which are unable to pay for the food, Krasnaya zvezda reported on 21 July. -- Alaina Lemon, OMRI, Inc. SCIENTISTS STAGE ZOO SIT-IN. Three scientists, who were formerly employed at the Moscow Institute of Scientific Research, sat in cages at the Moscow zoo on 23 July, Russian and Western agencies reported. The scientists said they wanted to show moral support for their colleagues who work in research institutes that are going to be closed down because of a lack of subsidies. The scientists, Yevgenii Spirodonov, Vladislav Perlin, and Viktor Pekin, said they were not protesting but rather trying to underline their belief that Russian scholars should be less dependent on the state. -- Alaina Lemon, OMRI, Inc. MORE CASES OF CHOLERA. Cholera bacteria were found in the Urup River in Krasnodar Krai on 22 July and a virulent form of the bacteria was found the next day in Omsk, ITAR-TASS reported. In both places, authorities have forbidden swimming on local beaches. Besides those, four other cases have been reported recently: two in Moscow, one in Chechnya, and one in Rostov-na-Donu. -- Alaina Lemon, OMRI, Inc. TWO SOLDIERS SENTENCED TO DEATH FOR HAZING REVENGE. Two soldiers, who killed six of their comrades at a Far Eastern base in March 1994, were sentenced to death by a military court, Moskovskii komsomolets reported on 22 July. Both men told investigators that the killings were an act of revenge against the soldiers who had beaten and humiliated them during hazing. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIA SIGNS TRADE ACCORD WITH LIBYA. Russian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Trade Oleg Davydov signed trade and technical cooperation agreements with Libya on 22 July, international agencies reported. The deals, worth an estimated $1.5 billion, provide for Russian firms to construct electric power facilities and help modernize Libyan oil and gas pipelines. Davydov said earlier difficulties with Libya's $2.4 billion debt to Russia, "had been resolved," clearing the way for the accords. He added that Russia "fully supports" Libya's attempts to have UN sanctions imposed on the country in 1992 lifted, adding that they have "no particularly firm foundations." -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIA STEPS UP PRESSURE ON AZERBAIJAN. A senior Russian diplomat told Interfax on 22 July that Russia intends to increase political pressure on Azerbaijan to route pipelines for oil exported from the Caspian Sea region through Russia. The official said that Moscow planned "tough measures to persuade Azerbaijan and other countries in the Caspian Sea region to adopt a more realistic position" on the pipeline and other issues related to the development of oil resources in the Caspian region. Turkey and Iran are also pressing for oil from the Caspian region to be exported across their territory. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIA REJECTS "MILITARY SOLUTION" TO BOSNIAN CONFLICT. Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev said on 21 July that attempts to turn the London meeting on Bosnia into a "conference for the declaration of an air war" on the Bosnian Serbs had failed, Russian and Western agencies reported. Kozyrev reiterated Russian opposition to any escalation in the use of force by UN peacekeeping troops in Bosnia. Russia remains committed to finding a negotiated settlement, Kozyrev noted, complaining that "our Western partners are artificially restraining the political process." -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. CHINESE BORDER COMMISSION MEETING. The Russo-Chinese commission on the demarcation of the border is holding its sixth session in the Siberian regional center Chita, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 July. Genrikh Kireyev, the foreign ministry special envoy heading the Russian delegation contrasted the positive attitude of the Transbaikal officials with the "extremely negative" actions of certain leaders in the Primorsk Krai. The former, he said had concluded an agreement with the Chinese over the joint economic use of an island in the Argun River that will be handed over to China. On the other hand, the stand of the Primorsk officials, who have denounced the border agreement with China, "threatens to disrupt all demarcation work, harm Russo-Chinese relations, and lead to a reanimation of territorial claims," he said. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. CENTRAL BANK TO ISSUE NEW BANK NOTES. In an effort to curb counterfeiting, Russia's Central Bank will gradually introduce new bank notes ranging in value from 50,000 rubles ($10) to 1,000 rubles (20 cents) beginning on 26 July, Moskovskii komsomolets reported on 22 July. The bills will be circulated parallel to the old currency. The new notes will have a protective thread that can be detected with a special device. There will also be certain water signs on the new bank notes. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. VALUE ADDED TAX TO INCREASE IN 1996. Russia plans to raise its value- added tax (VAT) rate from 20% to 21% beginning in January 1996, Finance Minister Vladimir Panskov told Russian agencies on 21 July. No details were given on why the tax, which is added to goods or services at all stages of production and is borne by the final purchaser, was being increased or how much revenue Russia intended to raise with the measure. Russia's 1995 budget states that VAT, which is easier to collect and harder to evade than other taxes because it is based on consumption, will bring in almost 50 trillion rubles out of a total anticipated tax revenue of 128 trillion rubles, although the figures are not reliable. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. FEDERATION COUNCIL APPROVES FOREIGN ECONOMIC ACTIVITY DRAFT LAW. The Federation Council approved the bill "On State Regulation of Foreign Economic Activity" on 21 July, Kommersant-Daily reported the next day. Previously vetoed by President Boris Yeltsin, the new version stipulates that the control of military exports is established under presidential edicts. In the previous version, the parliamentarians had claimed the right to control military exports. The bill awaits the president's signature. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. NEW TYUMEN OIL CONGLOMERATE ESTABLISHED. A new Russian oil giant, the Tyumen Oil Company, was established by grouping together the controlling shares of 12 major oil enterprises, Russian and Western agencies reported on 22 July. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin signed a directive to establish the company on 21 July. It will include Nizhnevartovskneftegaz, which produced 10.4 million tons of oil in 1994, Tyumenneftgaz (0.77 million tons), the Ryazan oil refinery, and Tyumenneftgazstroi. The Tyumen Oblast of western Siberia is one of Russia's largest oil and gas producing areas. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA UZBEK REVERSAL ON IRAN. Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Komilov, on a visit to Tehran to attend the formal opening of Uzbekistan's embassy on 23 July, rejected the claims of "some western media" that his government backed the U.S. trade embargo against Iran, IRNA reported. Claiming illness, Komilov had earlier canceled a 12 May visit to Tehran after Uzbek President Islam Karimov expressed support for the embargo against Iran. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT DEPUTY KILLED. A Georgian parliament deputy for the Agrarian Party, Soso Makhaldiani, was killed in his home village of Chardzho on 22 July, AFP reported. According to police, the motive appeared to be robbery rather than his political views. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. BAGRATYAN REAPPOINTED. Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossyan signed a decree reappointing Grant Bagratyan as prime minister, Reuters reported on 23 July, citing ITAR-TASS. The composition of the new government is expected to be announced on 27 July when parliament is to meet for its first session. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. TAJIK BUSINESSMAN KILLED IN DUSHANBE. The Tajik Interior Ministry reported that the body of the vice-chairman of the Tajik-Austrian-U.S. joint venture AAA was found in the Tajik capital on 21 July, according to AFP. The ministry report said 32-year-old Zainiddin Echonkulov had been shot several times. An investigation has been launched. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc. TAJIK OPPOSITION PARTY REGISTERED AGAIN. The Democratic Party of Tajikistan has been allowed to register officially again, Radio Rossii reported on 21 July. The party was banned in 1993 along with other "radical" parties in Tajikistan. According to the report, the party was allowed to register itself again because its new platform does not contradict the current constitution. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc. KAZAKHSTAN LIMITS IMMIGRATION. Kazakhstan has placed a limit on the number of immigrants it will accept this year, Radio Rossii reported on 20 July. The government announced it will take 5,000 families this year because of problems in resettling those Kazakhs currently living abroad who would like to move to the country. The cabinet has set aside 250 million tenge (about $4 million) for the repatriation process. -- Bruce Pannier, 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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