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No. 157, Part I, 14 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 DUMA OVERRIDES FEDERATION COUNCIL ON DISTRICT BOUNDARIES. In a special session on 12 August, the State Duma overrode the Federation Council veto of a law defining the boundaries of the 225 single-member districts in the December Duma elections with 350 votes in favor, five against, and two abstentions, NTV reported. The higher-than-expected turnout of deputies and their unity in the vote showed that they were interested in the Duma elections being held in strict accordance with the law so that there would be no pretext to overturn their outcome. President Boris Yeltsin is expected to sign the law in the next few days. The Central Electoral Commission must officially publish the map of district boundaries by the end of August, according to the electoral law. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. YELTSIN VETOES LAW ON FEDERATION COUNCIL. President Yeltsin vetoed the law on the formation of the Federation Council on 12 August, Russian and Western agencies reported. The law had been passed by the Duma on 5 July and the Federation Council on 27 July. During its special session 12 August, the Duma tried to override the veto but mustered only 282 of the needed 300 votes, Russian Public TV reported. Yeltsin said the law would violate the constitution. According to his interpretation, Federation Council members should be appointed by the local executive and legislative branches of Russia's 89 republics and regions. The parliament's version of the law called for electing the upper house based on candidates nominated by the local executives and legislatures. According to a Kremlin statement, electing the upper house makes it too much like the lower house, AFP reported on 12 August. Appointing the members will allow them to better represent the interests of Russia's federal units, while the Duma will represent various groups within the population, according to the statement. Yeltsin has asked the Constitutional Court to examine the matter. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. KOZYREV AND LAKE DISCUSS YUGOSLAV SITUATION. No joint statement was issued after Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev and U.S. National Security Adviser Anthony Lake met for nearly three hours in Sochi on 13 August to discuss the conflict in the former Yugoslavia, Russian and Western agencies reported. Lake left without commenting to journalists. Kozyrev expressed satisfaction that the U.S. was now making "more active efforts to find a political solution" to the conflict but also admitted that "differences in accent between the two sides" persist. He also complained that "lifting or suspending sanctions" against rump Yugoslavia, a step supported by both President Yeltsin and the Duma, is not backed by the U.S. Differences in the U.S. and Russian approaches to the conflict have intensified since Croatia successfully recaptured Krajina earlier this month, and Lake, who is touring European capitals in a reported attempt to gain support for a U.S. peace initiative, had not originally planned to visit Russia. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. DUMA PASSES BILLS ON YUGOSLAV CONFLICT. At its special session on 12 August, the Duma adopted a resolution condemning Croatian actions in Krajina and passed three bills related to the conflict in the former Yugoslavia, Russian and Western agencies reported. On the second attempt, by a vote of 226-1, with many deputies not voting, a bill providing for Russia to unilaterally withdraw from UN sanctions against rump Yugoslavia barely passed on its third reading. The same bill had passed on its second reading on 12 July, following NATO air strikes against the Bosnian Serbs. In three simultaneous readings, the Duma also passed by 234-0, again with many deputies not voting, a bill that would impose a trade embargo on Croatia as punishment for "genocide against the Serbian people." The third bill called for the dispatch of humanitarian aid to Serbs fleeing Croatia. The bills now go to the Federation Council for consideration, and Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin suggested after the vote that President Yeltsin might veto them if they pass the upper house, which is currently in summer recess. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. GROZNY PEACE PROCESS FALTERS. Continued failure to implement the military accord signed in Grozny on 30 July has increased already strong doubts about the prospects for negotiating a stable peace in Chechnya. Sandor Meszaros, head of the OSCE delegation in Grozny, said on 11 August that none of the major provisions of the agreement have yet been put into operation. He added that an atmosphere of "mistrust" is hindering further progress. To push the process forward, Minister for Nationalities Vyacheslav Mikhailov and Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov went to Grozny over the weekend. Mikhailov told ITAR-TASS on 12 August that if the process of disarmament moves forward successfully, local elections in Chechnya could take place this December. He added, however, that a recent decision by Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev to exempt the "Chechen army" from the provisions of the Grozny military accord would torpedo any further progress. Kulikov later told journalists in Grozny that if pro-Dudaev fighters do not turn over their weapons soon, federal troops would "continue to use force" to disarm them. Talks on implementing the military agreement are scheduled to continue on 14 August. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. OSSETIYANS AND INGUSH BREAK NEGOTIATIONS OVER REFUGEES. Negotiations between North Ossetiyan and Ingush delegations that began in Nazrani on 8 August halted three days later. Interfax reported on 11 August that the Ingush press service said that the talks were "interrupted because of the Ossetiyan side's refusal to continue them," and also that the Ossetiyans claimed that making a list of North Ossetiyan communities to which refugees could return is not possible. North Ossetiyan President Yurii Biragov, however, told ITAR-TASS on 12 August that the Ingush side had insisted on a rapid return of refugees to 16 resettlement points in North Ossetiya, while his side had proposed to deal with the problem gradually. He said that each side should send a group of experts to look over proposed sites to determine housing and infrastructure needs, as well as how to guarantee refugees' safety, before negotiations continue. Both sides have expressed a willingness to resume negotiations later. Interfax labeled the problematic refugees "North Ossetiyans," while ITAR-TASS referred to them as "Ingush." -- Alaina Lemon, OMRI, Inc. OUR HOME IS RUSSIA ADOPTS PRELIMINARY PLATFORMS. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's center-right Our Home is Russia bloc adopted preliminary versions of its program and campaign platform at the first session of its second congress on 12 August, ITAR-TASS reported. The final versions will be adopted at the second stage of the congress on 2 September. In his speech to the congress, Chernomyrdin said it will be difficult to convince people to support the program because many of the movement's members are currently in the executive branch and are vulnerable to criticism. Aleksandr Shokhin, chairman of the program commission, said that the main goals of the program were to pay state debts to industry and compensate citizens, starting with the oldest, for the savings they lost due to the liberalization of prices. Chernomyrdin's "party of power" faces stiff competition, since the appearance of numerous regional branches of Our Home is Russia is giving the opposition a common enemy and spurring its unification, Izvestiya reported on 12 August. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. "ALPHA" UNIT GOES TO THE FSB. The crack antiterrorist "Alpha" commando unit has been transferred to the Federal Security Service (FSB), RIA reported on 10 August. The unit, established in 1974 under the KGB, had belonged to President Yeltsin's Main Administration for the Protection of the Russian Federation. Sullied in the attack on the hospital in Budennovsk, Alpha thus follows its former commander Col. Gen. Mikhail Barsukov to the strengthened FSB. In April, Yeltsin signed into law a bill that allowed the FSB to create special forces for paramilitary functions. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. RECORD NUMBER OF SYPHILIS CASES. Yevgenii Belyaev, the head of the State Committee for Sanitary-Epidemiological Inspection, said on 11 August that there were more than 100,000 registered cases of syphilis in the first six months of this year, the most Russia has seen this century, Reuters reported. Dysentery is up 26%, and hepatitis A up 3.9%. There were 18,787 cases of diphtheria in the first seven months of the year, but the disease is spreading much more slowly than it did last year. To improve the health of the population, Belyaev advocated a national campaign to promote "healthy lifestyles, good food, and family values." -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. PAY RISE FOR CIVIL SERVANTS. Finance Minister Vladimir Panskov said on 11 August that civil servants' salaries will be raised by 55% in September and that President Yeltsin has promised to issue a decree raising salary levels by 150% in the new year, ITAR-TASS and Kommersant- Daily reported. He added, however, that the Duma was likely to oppose the hikes. Government ministers argue that low pay is encouraging a damaging emigration of qualified officials that is "threatening national security," but left-wing papers have frequently criticized civil service salaries as too high. At present, the lowest average monthly salary is at the Culture Ministry--313,000 rubles ($71)--and the highest at the State Customs Service--960,000 rubles ($218). -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. MORE ON TURKISH SPY IN DAGESTAN. The case of Isak Kasap, a Turkish national arrested for espionage in late May in Dagestan (see OMRI Daily Digest, 2 June 1995 and 31 May 1995), may be nearing a conclusion. At an 11 August press conference organized by the Russian Federal Security Service in Makhachkala, Kasap told reporters he was guilty of espionage on Russian territory and of serving as a contact between Turkey and Dzhokhar Dudaev, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. He said he confessed his guilt because the Turkish authorities had denied any connection to him. The Dagestani prosecutor's office has decided to cancel criminal proceedings against Kasap since he cooperated with them and "did not cause any serious damage" to Russia or Dagestan. It appears he will be deported. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. LARGE FOREIGN INVESTMENTS NOT EXPECTED IN 1996. Russian Deputy Economics Minister Vladimir Kossov told Interfax on 11 August that political uncertainty in the country is discouraging foreign investment which is not expected to pick up until after forthcoming parliamentary and presidential elections. The minister noted that the government had sent proposals to the State Duma to pass legislation that would make the investment climate more attractive to foreigners. Nebulous and contradictory legislation is one of the obstacles in attracting foreign investment to Russia. Kossov said Russia received as little as $500 million in direct foreign investment in the first six months of this year, marking a drop from last year's figures. Kossov predicted that foreign investments for 1996 will stay in these year's range of $1.2-1.5 billion. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. RUBLE REMAINS UNCHANGED FOR FIRST TIME THIS YEAR. For the first time this year, the Russian ruble remained unchanged at 4,405 rubles to $1 for a whole week (7-11 August), the Financial /Information Agency reported on 11 August. The ruble is stable because the dollar rate on the exchange market approached a limit the Central Bank of Russia can permit. The bank bought about $300 million worth of currency on MICEX trading during the course of the week, which kept the ruble stable. The Financial Information Agency reported that if high interest rates (70- 100%) persist on inter-bank ruble credits, commercial banks may avoid a long-term play for the dollar's rise. In August last year, the price of ruble credits averaged 20-25%, which triggered the panic buying of hard currency late last summer and early fall. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. CITIZENS' SAVINGS HOLDINGS RISE. The total bank savings of Russian citizens amounted to 50.9 trillion rubles ($1.2 billion) as of 1 July, according to issue No. 30 of Birzhevye vedomosti. Based on Goskomstat statistics, this means an 80% rise over the figure at the beginning of the year. As before, Russians prefer to keep their savings with the Sberbank (Savings Bank), which has accumulated 59.4% of all bank assets invested by the Russian population. Meanwhile, some experts cited in the report noted that this figure is actually declining. They say that in January 1994, Russians kept 71.4% of their total savings with Sberbank compared with only 62.2% in January 1995. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA UN ENVOY MAKES STATEMENT IN KABUL ON TAJIK TALKS. The UN special envoy to Tajikistan, Ramiro Piriz Ballon, said in Kabul on 12 August after meeting with opposition leader Said Nuri that the two sides in the Tajik conflict have agreed on "some of the principles that should serve as the basis for future inter-Tajik talks," according to the United Nations Daily report. Ballon said the two sides agreed in principle on a six-month extension of the existing ceasefire (due to expire on 26 August), on the formation of a consultative body to discuss political transition in Tajikistan, and on the legalization of political parties. After the statement, Ballon flew back to Dushanbe without mentioning where or when the next round of talks will be held. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc. CILLER BEGINS CENTRAL ASIAN TOUR. At the head of a large delegation, Turkish Prime Minister Tansu Ciller began a tour of Central Asia on 14 August to strengthen economic and political ties with Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan, international media reported. In particular, along with her energy minister, Ciller is expected to push for more trade, an oil pipeline, and eventually, a highway linking Turkey and Central Asia, according to media reports. Ciller was in Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan, priority countries for Turkey, less than two months ago. Her visit follows a similar regional tour earlier this month by Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati. Ciller's visit is also a precursor to the third summit of Turkic leaders which is to be held in Bishkek later this month. -- 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 Please note that there is a new procedure for obtaining permission to reprint or redistribute the OMRI Daily Digest. 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