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No. 148, Part I, 1 August 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 RUSSIAN MOTION TO DISCUSS CROATIA FAILS IN UN. A Russian proposal that the UN Security Council condemn the recent Croatian military offensive in Bosnia failed to gain the support of other council members, Western and Russian media reported on 31 July. Instead of adopting the Russian proposal, the council simply reiterated earlier appeals for all sides in the conflict to cease hostilities. Acting Russian delegate to the UN, Vasilii Sidorov, blamed the U.S. for the council's failure to explicitly condemn Croatian actions, which he said gave the "green light" to a further escalation of hostilities by Croatia. -- Scott Parrish DETAILS OF CONSTITUTIONAL COURT VERDICT. The Constitutional Court handed President Boris Yeltsin a major victory with its 30 July ruling on the constitutionality of three presidential decrees and one government directive that initiated the military intervention in Chechnya, Russian and Western agencies reported. The court ruled that both Yeltsin's 9 December 1994 decree on disarming illegal armed formations in Chechnya and a subsequent 12 December 1994 government directive implementing it were "fully consistent with the constitution." The ruling did strike down two individual provisions of the government directive, one restricting press coverage and the other calling for the deportation of "dangerous individuals" from Chechnya. The other two presidential decrees, one a "secret" decree of 30 November 1994 on restoring constitutional order in Chechnya and the other a 2 November 1994 decree on the basic elements of Russian military doctrine, were judged by the court to be beyond its jurisdiction. -- Scott Parrish REACTION TO CONSTITUTIONAL COURT DECISION. Constitutional Court Deputy Chairwoman Tamara Morshchakova said the verdict was not unanimous and that seven of the court's 19 judges will file "special opinions" outlining their differences with the majority decision, Russian TV reported. Presidential Chief-of-Staff Sergei Filatov said he is "fully satisfied" with the verdict. Judge Valerii Zorkin, former chairman of the court, declared that he fundamentally disagreed with the decision, saying it showed that the court is "a prisoner of the letter of the law" while ignoring its spirit. The pro-Communist newspaper Pravda criticized the court for capitulating to the president, contending that the president not only has "his own" procurator but now has the court in his pocket as well. -- Scott Parrish REACTION TO GROZNY ACCORDS. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin congratulated the delegation of Russian negotiators, led by Minister for Nationalities Vyacheslav Mikhailov, on the signing of the 30 July military accord in Grozny, and told journalists that President Yeltsin had fully approved its terms, Russian and Western agencies reported on 31 July. Presidential adviser Mikhail Krasnov added that Yeltsin would soon appoint a special representative to Chechnya to oversee the process of normalization. Mikhailov dismissed reports that Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev had rejected the accord, and Russian negotiator Arkadii Volskii assured journalists that the accord would "work" even if Dudaev rejected it. Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov added that if the agreement is implemented, the conditions for democratic elections can be created in Chechnya within 2-3 months. In Chechnya, however, despite the signing of the agreement, Russian military officials announced that six federal servicemen and 35 Chechen fighters had died in clashes during the last 24 hours. -- Scott Parrish YELTSIN PLANS TO DEMOTE KOVALEV'S COMMISSION. President Boris Yeltsin is planning to demote the presidential Human Rights Commission led by Sergei Kovalev, an outspoken critic of the Chechen campaign, to a section of the presidential administration that deals with citizen correspondence, Ekho Moskvy reported on 31 July. The radio characterized the new status of the commission as at the level of a "trash can." On 10 March, the Duma voted to abolish Kovalev's position as the Duma's Human Rights Commissioner because nationalist and pro-communist deputies felt that his criticism was embarrassing Russia. Yeltsin's expected decision is seen as payback for Kovalev's criticism of the war. -- Robert Orttung LAPSHIN SEES COMMUNISTS AS NATURAL ALLIES. Agrarian Party leader Mikhail Lapshin said the natural allies for his party are the Communists, trade unions, and industrialists, Sovetskaya Rossiya reported on 1 August. State Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin had hoped to get Lapshin to join his left-center alliance, comprising around 50 parties, that has close ties to Yeltsin. Lapshin told reporters, however, that "you can never make a tiger from 50 mice." -- Robert Orttung LACK OF LEGISLATION THREATENS PARTY CONGRESSES. The Federation Council's failure to adopt a law fixing the boundaries for the 225 single-member Duma seats is jeopardizing the plans of Russia's political parties to hold their congresses in mid-August, ITAR-TASS reported on 1 August. Many parties had intended to nominate their candidates for the districts and finalize the party lists for the December balloting at those meetings. Without knowing the exact configuration of the districts, the parties will not be able to nominate candidates for them, forcing them to wait until the situation is clear. The Central Electoral Commission must publish the district boundaries by 30 August but is waiting for the parliament to adopt a law on the matter. Both houses of parliament are in summer recess and there are no plans to convene a special session. If no law is passed, the elections will be held according to the 1993 divisions. -- Robert Orttung WOMEN'S GROUP CRITICIZES LACK OF REPRESENTATION IN PARLIAMENT. The National Council for the 4th World Conference on Women has sent a letter to President Yeltsin, the leaders of both chambers of parliament, and Russia's political parties expressing concern about the low number of women in the parliament, ITAR-TASS reported on 31 July. Of 450 Duma members, only 57 are women, while there are only nine women among the 176 Federation Council members. The letter particularly objected to the idea of delegating future Federation Council members from the local leadership of Russia's regions and republics without voting. The letter said such a procedure is undemocratic and threatens the achievement of equal rights in the country by turning the upper house into a men's club. Yeltsin does not want to hold elections to the upper house and is threatening to veto a law that mandates them. -- Robert Orttung FINN0-UGRIC MINORITY CONGRESS OPENS. The second congress of the Finno- Ugric peoples began on 31 July in Kudymkar (a city in the Komi-Perm autonomous district, 200 km north of Perm), Radio Rossii reported on 31 July. The Finno-Ugric languages include Hungarian and Finnish, groups thought to have come from the Urals where Finno-Ugric groups still live. Representatives from Finland, Estonia, and Hungary attended the congress. The congress will consider a resolution on bringing legal protection of human rights in Russia in line with international norms. The document noted that despite the existence of legislation on languages, attempts to implement such legislation in many regions have been sabotaged. A resolution has also been proposed to give indigenous peoples rights to land held by their ancestors and to compensation for damages to land caused by industrial development. It is the fifth time such a large gathering of Finno-Ugric peoples has been held. -- Alaina Lemon JAPANESE: RUSSIAN PACIFIC FLEET IN TROUBLE. Quoting what it said were top secret documents from the Russian Pacific Fleet headquarters, the Tokyo Shimbun reported on 30 July that the fleet today is only one-third of its 1985 size. The newspaper, cited by the South Korean Yonhap news agency, reported that the fleet now numbers 275 vessels with a total displacement of 660,000 gross tons compared with its former size of 745 vessels and 1,890,000 tons. The reductions were blamed on the lack of repair funds, old age, and arms control treaty cuts. Of the 35 submarines still in the fleet, only 23 are operational. The daily reported that the Russian navy is considering a transferal of the fleet's strategic submarines to the Northern Fleet. -- Doug Clarke CABINET MINISTERS SUMMONED FOR EMERGENCY MEETING. Russian cabinet ministers were summoned for an emergency meeting on 31 July to discuss the results of the budget for the first half of the year and the 1 August draft deadline for the 1996 budget, Russian TV announced the same day. Finance Minister Vladimir Panskov promised the draft budget would be submitted to the Duma by the end of the week. According to ITAR-TASS, ministers said industrial output had declined by only 4% in the first half of 1995 compared to 17% over the same period in 1994. They also noted that exports have grown and the ruble strengthened in the first six months of the year. Panskov and Economy Minister Yevgenii Yasin told Russian and Western media that the government's main task in the second half of 1995 is to prevent a jump in inflation. The government aims to limit monthly money supply growth to 1.5-2% for the rest of the year; it rose an average of 7% a month in the first half of 1995, while consumer prices rose an average of 10.1% in the same period. -- Thomas Sigel VAZ HIKES AUTO PRICES BY 5%. From 1 August, the Volzhskii Automobile Factory (VAZ) will hike automobile prices an average of 5%, ITAR-TASS reported on 31 July. The move is a result of higher costs for materials used in production. The cheapest model, the "Zhiguli 53," will cost around 32 million rubles ($7,200) and the most expensive model, the "Zhiguli 99," will be priced at around 53 million rubles ($11,900). -- Thomas Sigel TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA NEXT ROUND OF TAJIK PEACE TALKS, WHEN AND WHERE? Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Albert Chernyshev arrived in Dushanbe on 31 July to discuss bilateral relations and the next round of Tajik peace talks with Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov, ITAR-TASS reported. Both the Tajik government and the opposition are willing to meet in August but cannot agree on whether to meet in Ashgabat or Tehran. In an interview published in the Iranian daily Iran on 24 July, Ali Akbar Turadzhonzoda, a spokesman for the Tajik opposition, said that while the opposition still wants a 40% share of the government, it is not seeking executive power. The opposition wants a two-year transitional period during which Rakhmonov would remain as president. -- Bruce Pannier FIRST GROUP OF TAJIK REFUGEES RETURN HOME. The first 500 Tajik refugees who had been living in Afghanistan were moved by convoy to Gorno- Badakhshan on 29 July, Russian agencies reported. The repatriation plan calls for 9,000 refugees to be returned by 1 September. The government has been pushing to have all refugees repatriated by 9 September, Tajikistan's Independence Day. The government views the return of the refugees as a sign that the situation in the republic is returning to normal and for just that reason, the opposition has been reluctant to let them go back. The opposition has also been able use the refugees as recruits for continual attacks on CIS border forces from bases in Afghanistan. -- Bruce Pannier TURKEY AND GEORGIA. On 31 July, Turkey and Georgia signed a framework agreement on oil pipeline cooperation, AFP reported the same day. Turkish President Suleyman Demirel, leading a delegation of government officials, said in Borjomi that Turkey "insisted" on building a new oil and gas pipeline through Georgian territory, adding, "They [the Georgians] wanted this." Earlier the same day, Demirel and Georgian parliamentary chairman Eduard Shevardnadze inaugurated a new border gate at Turkgozu, international news agencies reported. Demirel and Shevardnadze both said the gate will be a gate for peace in the region. Demirel said Turkey wants to establish good relations with "everyone in the region," specifically naming Greece, Iran, and Syria. Alluding to a theme popularized by the Turkish right, he also said anyone who passes through the gate will be able to go "all the way to Central Asia." The first border gate between Turkey and Georgia opened in 1988; a third one is expected to be opened in the near future. -- Lowell Bezanis UZBEKISTAN'S ENERGY DEPENDENCE TO END? Two separate reports in the Russian press suggest Uzbekistan is on its way to energy independence. An article in Finansovye izvestiya (No. 53) citing World Bank experts noted that Uzbekistan will stop importing Russian oil next year. According to them, the commissioning of oil deposits at Kuktumalak and Mingbulak, the completion of the first stage of the Bukhara oil refinery, and the reconstruction of another refinery in Ferghana will help Uzbekistan end its dependence on Russian oil. The paper noted that Uzbekistan purchased 3 million tons of oil in 1994 and plans to buy only 750,000 tons in 1995. Meanwhile, Uzbekistan will also give up importing liquefied gas from Russia after the Shurtan gas deposit is commissioned, Kommersant-Daily reported on 27 July. -- Lowell Bezanis [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. ISSN 1211-1570
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