|The absence of alternatives clears the mind marvelously. - Henry Kissinger|
No. 153, Part I, 8 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 YELTSIN INVITES MILOSEVIC, TUDJMAN TO MOSCOW. Speaking to journalists in the Kremlin on 7 August, Russian President Boris Yeltsin said he had invited Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and Croatian President Franjo Tudjman to Moscow to negotiate an agreement that would end hostilities in the former Yugoslavia, Russian and Western agencies reported. Amid fears that the recent Croatian military offensive could trigger an escalation of the fighting, Yeltsin expressed confidence that such a meeting would "reach an agreement." In a departure from the usual Russian position, which has emphasized the importance of finding a political settlement to the conflict, Yeltsin added that if the Serbs remain obstinate it would become necessary to "adopt forceful measures." Also on 7 August, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman said that if Croatia does not curb its military operations against Serb separatists, Moscow may propose sanctions against Croatia in the UN Security Council. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. YELTSIN RETURNS TO KREMLIN. President Yeltsin returned to work in the Kremlin on 7 August, completing his recovery from his 11 July heart troubles, Russian and Western agencies reported. The 64-year-old leader appeared in good shape as he walked around the Kremlin, greeting tourists and talking to journalists. He spent the last two weeks recuperating in a suburban Moscow sanitarium. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. YELTSIN ON CHECHNYA. Russian President Boris Yeltsin said on 7 August that new elections in Chechnya can only be held after the disarmament process is completed, Russian and Western agencies reported. As a result, elections for a new Chechen parliament might be delayed until early 1996, the president added. Russian negotiators had earlier indicated that local elections could be held this coming November. Yeltsin said that he had already chosen a new special representative to Chechnya but would not confirm rumors that he will appoint Security Council secretary Oleg Lobov to the position. Yeltsin also reiterated that Chechnya must remain within the Russian Federation and said that although local elections could be delayed, elections to the Duma should take place in Chechnya on 17 December as in the rest of the country. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. POSSIBILITY OF SPLIT IN THE AGRARIAN PARTY SURFACES. Vasilii Starodubtsev, one of the instigators of the 1991 coup and chairman of the Agrarian Union, part of the bloc that makes up the Agrarian Party, is unhappy with the way Agrarian Party leader Mikhail Lapshin wants to choose candidates for the party's electoral list, NTV reported on 7 August. Lapshin wants a congress of the Agrarian Party to confirm all candidates, including those from the Agrarian Union. Starodubtsev believes that such a procedure would violate the rights of the Agrarian Union and that Lapshin wants to be the sole leader of the party without "taking into account the interests of his partners." Lapshin asserted that the party, in alliance with the Communist Party of the Russian Federation and other opposition groups, could win half of the seats in the Duma, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 August. He also said his party would support a common candidate for president with the Communists. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. ISAKOV BELIEVES YELTSIN WILL SIGN LAW ON FEDERATION COUNCIL. Vladimir Isakov, chairman of the Duma Committee on Legislation, believes that if Yeltsin does not sign the law calling for elections to the upper house, he will create "a constitutional crisis," an outcome he wants to avoid, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 August. Both houses of the parliament passed the bill and it has been awaiting Yeltsin's signature since late July. Federation Council Speaker Vladimir Shumeiko has repeatedly said that Yeltsin will veto the bill so that the Federation Council can be formed from the leadership of Russia's 89 republics and regions. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. DEMOCRATIC PARTY OF RUSSIA TO CAMPAIGN ON TWO PARTY LISTS. Leaders of the Democratic Party of Russia (DPR) announced on 7 August that they will compete in the December parliamentary elections on two separate party lists, Russian media reported. Sergei Glazev, chairman of the DPR and the Duma Economic Policy Committee, will join the party list of Yurii Skokov's Congress of Russian Communities (KRO). Stanislav Govorukhin, leader of the DPR Duma faction and the Duma Commission on Chechnya, will run alongside Svyatoslav Fedorov's Party of Popular Self- Government (PNS). The decision to pin the DPR's electoral fortunes on two parties was adopted after lengthy and heated discussions at a closed party congress, ITAR-TASS reported. In the December 1993 elections, the DPR, then led by Nikolai Travkin, campaigned independently and barely cleared the 5% barrier necessary to win Duma seats assigned from party lists. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. ZHIRINOVSKII CHECKS THE MENTAL HEALTH OF HIS PARTY MEMBERS. Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii has asked the head of a Nizhnii Novgorod psychological clinic to evaluate the mental health of nine of his party members in the city, Radio Rossii reported 7 August. The reasons for Zhirinovskii's request are unclear. The local press has carried numerous satirical stories on the incident in the past week, causing regional party leaders to stop answering their telephones. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. DATE SET FOR SVERDLOVSK GUBERNATORIAL RUNOFF ELECTION. A runoff between the top two candidates for governor in the Sverdlovsk Oblast has been set for 20 August, since none of the eight candidates in the race received more than 50% of the vote in the first round, NTV reported on 7 August. Regional Duma Chairman Eduard Rossel led the field with 29% of the vote. Sverdlovsk administrative head Aleksei Strakhov finished second with 26%, and Valerii Trushnikov, Strakhov's first deputy, came in third with 22%. Strakhov leads the regional branch of Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's bloc, Our Home Is Russia, and the runoff will be closely watched as the first (and last) test of Our Home Is Russia's popularity in the regions before nationwide parliamentary elections in December. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. LAPTEV CALLS FOR LAW DEFINING "STATE" MASS MEDIA. State Press Committee Chairman Ivan Laptev called for new legislation to clarify rules on campaign coverage and political advertising in the press and electronic media, Russian TV reported on 7 August. The Central Electoral Commission has proposed guidelines that would prohibit free or paid political advertising in the private electronic media and would also force "state" mass media to devote free air time or column space to candidates and parties running for parliament. However, there is currently no law on the distinction between "state" and "private" mass media. Laptev said such a law is particularly needed to define the status of regional radio and television companies, since candidates running in single-member constituencies will appeal to voters primarily through the local mass media. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. GOVERNMENT RESPONSE TO DEATH OF KIVELIDI. In the wake of the poisoning of banker Ivan Kivelidi, the Russian cabinet again pledged to take new measures to combat crime, Russian and Western agencies reported on 7 August. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, who chaired the closed session, was quoted as saying "we cannot avoid measures of extraordinary rigor." His spokesman said the government is preparing a report on the crime situation, which is to include proposals for maintaining law and order and a list of priorities. Numerous public figures have been assassinated in recent months, but the murder investigations have made little headway despite repeated promises by the authorities to step up the fight against organized crime. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. UNEMPLOYMENT RISING. Federal Employment Service spokeswoman Irina Milkhina said on 7 August that 9.6 million people are unemployed in Russia, or 13% of the workforce, ITAR-TASS reported. That figure includes 5.7 million people actively seeking work, of whom about 2 million are officially registered as unemployed, and 3.9 million "hidden" unemployed (employees still on a company's books but working reduced hours or on compulsory unpaid leave). Milkhina said that the number of officially registered unemployed has increased by 20% since the beginning of the year and that the widespread practice of short-time work, which is particularly common in light industry, the chemical industry, machine-building, transport, communications, and scientific organizations, is one of the main factors preventing mass open unemployment. Nevertheless, the number of "hidden" unemployed has fallen by 900,000 since the beginning of the year. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. HOMOSEXUALS' ASSOCIATION REFUSED REGISTRATION. Russian homosexuals condemned the refusal on 21 July of a Moscow court to register the Triangle Center for homosexuals, lesbians, and bisexuals on the grounds that its existence "contravened the norms of public morality," AFP and Ekho Moskvy reported on 7 August. In a letter of protest to the Justice Ministry, the group said "the refusal to register our association is a pure and simple violation of liberty and human rights." Homosexuality was a criminal offense in Russia until April 1993. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. U.S. SERVICEMAN REPORTED ARRESTED IN KRASNOYARSK. Federal Security Service (FSB) agents detained an "American serviceman" who was carrying out measurements with a "geodesic instrument" near the Krasnoyarsk-26 mining and chemical complex in Siberia, one of Russia's largest nuclear- related facilities, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 August. A spokesman at the U.S. Defense Department had no comment on the incident, Western agencies reported the same day. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. BORDER AGREEMENT WITH CHINA POSSIBLE SOON. The director of the Russian Federal Border Service said on 7 August that "documents of unprecedented importance for Russia and China" would be signed in Beijing later this month, ITAR-TASS reported. Col. Gen. Andrei Nikolayev said it had taken 18 months to write the drafts of the documents and the two sides had settled many differences. He stressed that Russian interests must be protected in the final stage of the talks. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. RUBLE STRENGTHENS AGAINST DOLLAR. The Russian ruble strengthened against the U.S. dollar on 7 August MICEX trading, closing at 4,405 rubles compared with 4,416 rubles on 4 August trading, ITAR-TASS reported. Trading volume came in at $38.11 million dollars. The demand for dollars at the opening of the session was only $9.13 million compared with a supply of $89.31 million. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. TRANS-SIBERIAN CONTAINER SHIPMENTS DECREASE. Russia is having difficulties attracting freight forwarders with goods originating in Pacific Rim countries to ship containers to European destinations through the trans-Siberian corridor, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 August. Even though a shipment from Japan to Europe only takes 12 days, many foreign firms are opting for the 30-day journey by sea to avoid high transport tariffs, tight customs regulations, and the possibility of pilferage. Many trans-Siberian shipments with goods such as automobiles, textiles, televisions, and video equipment have ended up as contraband in Uzbekistan. Since January, only 17,000 containers have passed through the corridor compared with 70,000 in the same period in 1980. Primorsk Krai officials are trying to improve the situation in order to boost foreign company confidence and convince them to send containers via Russian territory. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA ASSOCIATION OF CASPIAN NEWS AGENCIES FORMED. At the initiation of ITAR- TASS and IRNA, the charter for the Association of Caspian News Agencies (ACNA) was signed in Chalus, Iran, on 7 August, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. The grouping aims at strengthening the position of member agencies in world and regional markets and countering "unilateral and unbalanced information." It also seeks to expand the exchange of information in order to promote multilateral relations between the five states in the region. Agencies participating in ACNA include ITAR-TASS, IRNA, KAZTAG, and Turkmen Press; it appears Azerbaijan's Azeri Agency "backs the decision" of the other agencies but has refused to formally sign the charter. The ACNA's establishment is another indication of Russia's quest, backed by Iran, for preeminence in all Caspian-related issues and to turn any regional grouping into a vehicle for pursuing other foreign politico-economic objectives. Azerbaijan's hopes of bypassing Russia and exporting its Caspian oil via alternative routes explains its reluctance to sign the ANCA's charter. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. KAZAKHSTAN'S ANTI-NUCLEAR MARCHERS STOPPED BEFORE CHINESE BORDER. About 200 anti-nuclear activists who began a two-day "March of Peace" on 6 August to commemorate the dropping of the first atomic bomb on Japan 50 years ago were stopped the next day by Kazakh security forces in the town of Zharkent, 30 km from the Chinese border, according to Reuters. The marchers were using the anniversary to protest China's continued use of the Lop Nor testing site in the Xinjiang province, which borders Kazakhstan. -- 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. 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