|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. 149, Part I, 2 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 IMPLEMENTATION OF GROZNY ACCORD BEGINS . . . Aslan Maskhadov and Anatolii Romanov, commanders of Chechen and federal military forces, met in Grozny on 1 August to begin the work of the joint commission charged with overseeing the military accord signed by Russian and Chechen negotiators on 30 July, NTV reported. The two commanders issued a statement saying that all military actions on both sides would cease at midnight on 2 August, local time. They also promised to release shortly a concrete timetable for the implementation of the agreement. When asked whether Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev accepted the agreement, Maskhadov said Dudaev had approved it, except for a few minor points. Maskhadov attributed Dudaev's earlier statements repudiating the agreement to the Chechen president's "hot-headedness." -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. . . . BUT DOUBTS REMAIN ABOUT ITS PROSPECTS. Adding to doubts about the ultimate fate of the military agreement, Dudaev has fired Chechen chief negotiator Usman Imaev for "betraying the people of Chechnya." Imaev confirmed his dismissal in an exclusive interview with NTV on 2 August, adding that the decree which dismissed him had actually been signed by Dudaev on 24 July, prior to the signing of the military accord. Imaev refused to comment on how his dismissal might effect the implementation of the accord. Dudaev appointed his minister of education, Khodzha Akhmed Gelikhanov, as his new chief negotiator. Gelikhanov will lead the Chechen delegation in the next round of talks, scheduled to continue discussions on the unresolved issue of Chechnya's status. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. JUDGES DISCUSS "CHECHNYA CASE" VERDICT. Constitutional Court Chairman Vladimir Tumanov said on 1 August that the court's majority decision in the "Chechnya case" was based on the principle that the federal government has the right to use force to prevent the secession of a federation member, Russian media reported. Four judges, Viktor Luchin, Valerii Zorkin, Boris Ebzeev, and Nikolai Vitruk, announced that they fundamentally disagreed with the majority decision. Vitruk, told Izvestiya that the majority verdict could lead to a dangerous increase in presidential power by endorsing the view that the president can "enforce" general provisions of the constitution, even without a legal basis. Vitruk also complained that the Russian legal system contains many loopholes that allow the president issue arbitrary decrees. The four dissenters, plus another three judges who disagree with particular aspects of the decision, will soon issue "special opinions" outlining their disagreements with the majority verdict, Izvestiya reported. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. MORE ON DISBANDING OF KOVALEV COMMISSION. Sergei Filatov, the presidential chief of staff, said President Boris Yeltsin decided to disband Sergei Kovalev's presidential Human Rights Commission after Kovalev called the president a "constitutional criminal" during the recent Constitutional Court case on the Yeltsin's Chechnya decrees, Segodnya reported on 1 August. Kovalev said only an organization completely independent of the state could defend individual rights and did not exclude the possibility that he will set up such a group. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. IZVESTIYA ON CAMPAIGN FINANCING. The electoral law encourages wealthy candidates to engage in deceptive practices by setting the maximum amount of money that a candidate can spend on his own campaign too low, according to Izvestiya on 1 August. The limit a candidate can contribute is 1,000 times the monthly wage which works out to 43.7 million rubles. Additionally, recent rulings by the Central Electoral Commission did not put spending caps on the amounts that can be spent on gathering signatures in support of candidates and parties. This phase of the campaign is often the most expensive since individual candidates must gather 5,000 signatures and parties need 200,000. According to Aleksandr Sobyanin, the head of an independent group researching the elections, this feature of the rules benefits Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's Our Home is Russia because it has access to considerable resources. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. CITIZENSHIP COMMISSION ON REFUGEE STATUS LAW. The chairman of the Commission on Citizenship, Abdulah Mikitaev, told Russian agencies on 1 August that recent legislation on refugee status has had to take into account a different situation than in the past, when small numbers of political refugees came to the Soviet Union from capitalist countries for ideological reasons. Now there are thought to be tens of thousands of refugees, mostly from other former Soviet republics, Afghanistan, and Korea. Izvestiya reported on 2 August that the most likely candidates for receiving refugee status or Russian citizenship would be people such as former Azerbaijani President Ayaz Mutalibov and officers in the Afghan army under former President Najibullah. Izvestiya also reported that Kurdish immigrants would probably find few obstacles to receiving citizenship and political refugee status. -- Alaina Lemon, OMRI, Inc. FOREIGN TRADE REACHES $56 MILLION. Russia's foreign trade for the first half of 1995 amounted to $56 million, a 20% increase over the same period in 1994, according to the External Economic Affairs Ministry, Radio Rossii reported on 1 August. According to the ministry, the increase in foreign trade has helped Russia achieve a positive trade balance. External trade growth was attributed to an increase in oil, gas, metal, and raw material sales. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. BUSINESS KILLINGS LINKED TO ALUMINUM. The deaths of three prominent businessmen are linked to the trade and production of aluminum, according to Izvestiya on 2 August. They cited the deaths of bankers Oleg Kantor and Vadim Iafyasov of Yugorskii Bank (see OMRI Daily Digest, 21 July) and the recent death of Sergei Brzhosnevskii, director of the Moscow branch of the Volgograd aluminum factory, who was shot on 31 July while entering his home. Izvestiya speculated that the success of aluminum stocks and ventures in recent months due to privatization has drawn the attention of criminals. -- Alaina Lemon, OMRI, Inc. DOCTORS EXAGGERATE MALARIA OUTBREAK. After lengthy tests, Russian epidemiological inspectors have determined that there were only four cases of malaria in Voronezh rather than 140 as earlier believed, ITAR- TASS reported on 31 July (see OMRI Daily Digest, 21 July). The epidemiologists said the main reason for the mistake is local specialists' lack of experience with malaria. The first patient had been diagnosed correctly, and then when other patients were found to have similar symptoms, the doctors panicked and decided that the region is suffering a full-blown epidemic. Moscow medical inspection official Olga Goronenkova claimed that the malaria microbe was brought into Russia from other countries of the former Soviet Union, as well as elsewhere, although she admitted that more than 60% of the 820 reservoirs in Moscow are populated by mosquitoes, some potentially carrying malaria, Vechernyaya Moskva reported on 29 July. -- Alaina Lemon, OMRI, Inc. GOSKOMSTAT RELEASES STRIKE DATA. The State Statistics Committee announced that workers at 829 enterprises struck during the period between January and June 1995, Radio Mayak reported on 1 August. An estimated 185,000 individuals took part in the work stoppages. Most of the strikes were in educational institutions and the energy sector. The most common cause was the failure to receive wages on time. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. CHIEF OF STAFF ON CHEMICAL WEAPONS DESTRUCTION. General Mikhail Kolesnikov, chief of staff of the Russian armed forces, told a government session on 1 August that 510 billion rubles ($110 million) will be needed in 1996 to meet Russia's commitments on destroying its stockpile of chemical weapons, ITAR-TASS reported. Russia has admitted having 40,000 tons of chemical weapons and agents. According to the report, the government had instructed the Finance Ministry to provide funds for the elimination of this stockpile in the form of a special budget line item. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. AIRCRAFT CARRIERS TO BE SCRAPPED IN RUSSIA, NOT KOREA. Pacific Fleet authorities signed a protocol of intent with the Dalintermet joint-stock company of Nakhodka on 1 August calling for the company to scrap two aircraft carriers, the Minsk and Novorossiisk, ITAR-TASS reported. The two warships have already been purchased by a South Korean company for their scrap metal. In April, customs authorities had blocked the transfer of the two ships, fearing that they still contained classified military equipment. Once the ships are scrapped by Dalintermet, the metal will be sent to the South Korean company. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. MOSCOW WARNS CROATIA TO HALT OFFENSIVE. The Russian government has officially protested the recent attacks by Croatian forces in western Bosnia, Russian agencies reported on 1 August. The protest sent to Zagreb warned Croatian President Franjo Tudjman that the Croatian offensive could lead to an escalation of hostilities. Izvestiya commented on 2 August that Moscow's concern with the Croatian offensive is not shared by its Western partners in the international contact group, who hope that the Croatian attacks around Bihac will relieve them of the responsibility of carrying out their threats to use NATO air power to protect the UN "safe zone" there. The paper added that divisions between Moscow and the West will undermine recent Russian initiatives aimed at ending the Bosnian conflict. Yeltsin's proposed Bosnia peace plan evoked only skepticism from the Western powers, while his offer to send Russian troops to reinforce UN peacekeepers in Gorazde is unlikely to find acceptance because it would greatly complicate the use of NATO air power to defend the Muslim enclave. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. SUNKEN SUBMARINE NO DANGER. The Soviet nuclear submarine Komsomolets, which sank in the North Sea in April 1989, poses no threat to the local ecology, according to a communique issued in Brussels on 1 August by the international Komsomolets Fund. Fund representatives also said that contrary to some speculation in the media, there is no danger that either of the two nuclear warheads aboard the submarine will explode, ITAR-TASS reported. They guaranteed that there would be no plutonium leakage "in the next 20-30 years." Experts are said to be continuously monitoring the wreck with special equipment. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. TRETYAKOV GALLERY TURNS TO PRIVATE SOURCES FOR FINANCING. Moscow's Tretyakov Art Gallery has turned to private sources to meet expenses that range from preserving paintings to paying salaries, Delovoi mir reported on 1 August. The firm Boston Consulting Group, which has worked with other large art museums of the world, is providing free services to help the Tretyakov achieve financial stability. Sponsors have contributed $300,000 to the gallery, of which 60% has already been transferred to the gallery's account. More than half of the sponsors are foreign companies. Russian corporate sponsors include the banks, Vozrozhdenie, Unikombank, Alfa-bank, and Stolichnyi Bank and the investment companies Nika, Rinako Plus, and Troika Dialog. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA FINAL DRAFT OF KAZAKH CONSTITUTION PUBLISHED. The text of Kazakhstan's new constitution, which grants the president expanded executive powers including the right to dissolve parliament, was published on 1 August, according to Reuters. According to the draft, parliament can impeach the president by a three-quarters vote at a joint session of the new two- chamber legislature, but the president has the power to choose the prime minister and personally appoint seven members of the 47-member Senate, the upper house. The president cannot introduce legislation, but parliament can vote to give him lawmaking powers for one year by a two- thirds vote at a joint session. The constitution permits private land ownership, but maintains government control over water and natural resources. The Constitutional Court will be replaced by a Constitutional Council; the president and parliament will jointly appoint its members. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc. IZVESTIYA'S ASHGABAT CORRESPONDENT ARRESTED. On 29 July Izvestiya published a lengthy article concerning the closure and seizure of the newspaper's Ashgabat bureau on 20 July. According to the article, the correspondent , Vladimir Kuleshov, was picked up on 18 July by the Committee for National Security (KNB) on charges of conducting "anti- Turkmenistan propaganda." He was interrogated by a battery of officials and police officers including the state procurator, deputy minister of justice, and the chief of the department for the fight against organized crime. They argued that he was not an accredited journalist in Turkmenistan and that he would be judged as a citizen of the republic "who lies against his own country." The paper pointed out that Kuleshov has represented Izvestiya in Turkmenistan since 1985; it also noted that Turkmenistan's Foreign Ministry did not respond to an official request to accredit Kuleshov last year. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. SEGODNYA VIEWS UZBEK-RUSSIAN AGREEMENTS. An article in Segodnya on 1 August contended that Uzbekistan benefited more than Russia from the 26- 29 July bilateral talks held in Tashkent. The idea, circulated by Russian diplomats, that a "considerable advance" had been reached in the political sphere and economic problems were "finally solved," is overly optimistic, according to the newspaper. During Prime Minister Victor Chernomyrdin's visit, 15 bilateral agreements were signed. However, Uzbek diplomats managed to get accords relating to the Russian minority in Uzbekistan removed from the agenda. Likewise, an agreement on the status of the Russian media was not discussed. Segodnya argued that the protocol on broadening bilateral military relations was the only "serious" political agreement signed. Noting that Uzbekistan's debts to Russia are "ludicrously" small due to inflation, the paper pointed out that the problem of mutual debts remains unexplored. -- 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. 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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