|Every individual has a place to fill in the world, and is important, in some respect, whether he chooses to be so or not. - Nathaniel Hawthorne|
No. 170, Part I, 31 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 Central, Eastern, 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 SHAKHRAI LEAVES CHERNOMYRDIN BLOC. Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Shakhrai announced that he is leaving Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's bloc Our Home Is Russia, NTV reported on 30 August. In recent months, Shakhrai is said to have lost influence over the bloc's organization to other government figures, including presidential adviser Aleksandr Shokhin. Shakhrai was reportedly dissatisfied with the number of spots allocated to his Party of Russian Unity and Accord (PRES) on the proposed party list for Our Home Is Russia. Shakhrai was an early advocate of creating two centrist blocs led by Chernomyrdin and Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin. PRES competed independently in the 1993 parliamentary elections and barely cleared the 5% barrier necessary to win representation in the Duma from party lists. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. PATRIARCH WARNS OF MUSLIM-ORTHODOX CONFRONTATION. Patriarch Aleksii II criticized the plan of the Russian Union of Muslims to elect representatives to the Duma, arguing that it could cause confrontation in Orthodox-Muslim relations, Russian Public TV reported on 30 August. He called on the spiritual leaders of Russia's Muslims not to participate in the campaign and not to support any candidates. The Orthodox Church will refrain from supporting political organizations that call themselves "Christian" or "Orthodox." The same day, a conference opened in Moscow to coordinate the nonpolitical activities of Russian and foreign Islamic groups. Foreign representatives included delegations from several CIS countries, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia. The goals of the conference were to find ways to send Russian students abroad and increase foreign aid for Islam in Russia. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. TRETYAKOV OUSTED FROM NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA. The editorial board of Nezavisimaya gazeta, which is not currently in production, voted nearly unanimously to remove Vitalii Tretyakov from the post of editor-in- chief, which he had held since the paper was founded in December 1990, NTV reported on 30 August. In order to preserve its editorial independence, Nezavisimaya gazeta refused to run advertisements or accept any state subsidies, but financial problems forced the paper to suspend publication on 24 May. Tretyakov initially endorsed a proposed rescue plan to convert the paper into a joint-stock company, but more recently he suggested that it would be better to close the paper altogether than to sell shares to commercial interests. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. SECURITY COUNCIL DISCUSSES CHECHNYA . . . The Security Council met on 30 August to discuss the situation in Chechnya, Western and Russian agencies reported. President Boris Yeltsin chaired the widely publicized meeting, which made two decisions aimed at speeding up the peace process in Chechnya. First, federal authorities will try to "broaden" the base of Chechen leaders with whom they are currently holding talks. Second, Yeltsin expressed willingness to meet personally with Chechen leaders to push the talks forward. Asked by journalists if this decision meant that direct talks with separatist Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev might take place, Security Council Secretary and Presidential Representative in Chechnya Oleg Lobov said the issue had not been discussed. NTV commented that this position is illogical, since federal negotiators are already talking with Chechen delegates who frequently consult with Dudaev. The council also discussed measures for restoring the heavily damaged Chechen economy, including paying compensation to citizens for property damaged during the fighting. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. . . . WHILE SLOW DISARMAMENT CONTINUES. In Grozny, implementation of the 30 July military accord continued to experience difficulties. The Chechen rejection of a Russian proposal for a partial prisoner exchange again postponed the deal. Regarding disarmament, Lobov told journalists that, with an estimated 70,000 weapons still in the hands of Chechen fighters, it was impossible to set a date for new elections in Chechnya. Izvestiya noted on 31 August that Chechen fighters have still only turned in about 800 weapons. The paper added that the 50 billion rubles ($11.4 million) which have been allocated from the federal budget to buy up weapons under the disarmament plan would not be sufficient (at the current price of 900,000 rubles [$205] per gun) to buy all those weapons, leaving at least 10,000 in the hands of the population. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. CHERNOMYRDIN, YELTSIN LAUD TATARSTAN. Speaking at a meeting in Kazan on 30 August to mark the fifth anniversary of Tatarstan's declaration of state sovereignty, Russian Prime Minister Chernomyrdin praised Tatarstan's "outstanding role" in the development of the "new Russian federalism," Interfax reported on 30 August. Chernomyrdin also read an appeal from Russian President Yeltsin, who affirmed that support for Tatarstan's aspiration for wider independence had not been a mistake. Citing the example of Tatarstan to underscore the distinction between extremism on the one hand and equality and self-determination on the other, Chernomyrdin argued that Russia needs a new and clearly formulated nationalities policy to regulate relations between the center and the regions. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIA DENOUNCES NATO ATTACKS ON BOSNIAN SERBS. Russian President Yeltsin condemned both the recent Bosnian Serb mortar attack on Sarajevo and the NATO airstrikes launched in response, international agencies reported. In an interview with Russian Public TV, he said that Russia "opposed a military resolution of the Yugoslav crisis" and repeated his call for an international conference to resolve the conflict, to be held no later than October. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Grigorii Karasin told Interfax that "it is impermissible for the international community...to wage war against only one of the parties to the Bosnian conflict," because "all participants in the conflict" share responsibility for it. Karasin described the recent mortar attack on Sarajevo, for which he blamed the Bosnian Serbs, as a "barbaric act." But he added that there could be no military resolution of the conflict, saying that "tit-for-tat" retaliation would only create a vicious circle of violence. Interfax also reported that Russia planned to raise the issue of the airstrikes at the UN Security Council. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIAN-TURKISH TRADE. The actual exchange of goods and services between Russia and Turkey is not reflected in official statistics, according to the August edition of Birzhevye vedomosti (no. 35). Officially, the volume of bilateral trade is $2 billion, but the paper suggests that Turkish construction work in Russia is worth $6 billion annually and "shuttle" trade by individuals another $5 billion. The paper notes that officially, Russia provides oil, gas, metals, Lada cars, industrial equipment, newsprint, and timber to Turkey, while Turkey supplies Russia with candy, textiles, and medicines. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. FAR EASTERN SCIENTISTS PROTEST LOW FUNDING. Scientists in Russia's Far East said at a press conference on 30 August that they intend to begin a campaign of civil disobedience to protest government policies that are "discrediting Russian science," Russian TV reported. The researchers are angry at the government's failure to make scheduled budget payments to the sector, saying that unique research is suffering as a result. The average monthly salary of the scientific workers is a low 319,000 rubles (about $72)--two-thirds of the subsistence minimum in the Far East. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. MORE MILITARY FUNDING WOES. The Defense Ministry received only slightly over half the funds it was scheduled to receive in August from the Finance Ministry, Krasnaya zvezda reported on 31 August. As a result, it said, only 30% of servicemen would now receive their August pay. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. NEW FEDERAL ENERGY COMMITTEE TO BE CREATED. The government has prepared the documents necessary to set up a Federal Energy Committee (FEC) to be headed by First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais, Segodnya reported on 30 August. The FEC will regulate the prices of the fuel and energy sector, determine access to pipelines, and monitor electric energy exports. The committee will also enjoy exclusive investment and arbitration rights. The economic activities of companies that operate within the sector will be subject to strict monitoring. The companies will be required to submit routine reports, data concerning investment projects, and detailed price list drafts, including net cost, taxation, and profit items to the FEC. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. FINANCIAL MARKETS STILL SLOW. In the wake of the interbank crisis, financial market activity is still slow. According to Interfax, only a few deals were concluded on the Moscow interbank credit market on 30 August. Finance Ministry bond prices continued to rise on the off- exchange market. Traders said the sharp increase was due to MinFin bond market stabilization and commercial banks renewing operations with MinFin bonds. During the bank crisis, banks were selling securities, whereas now investors are trying to buy back bonds they sold earlier. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. OBLAST BANKS AFFECTED BY CRISIS. The Moscow banking crisis has caused interbank credit interest rates in Russia's oblasts to rise, Interfax reported on 30 August. Interest rate hikes were first felt in central Russia, where a lack of money increased demand for funds borrowed from other oblasts. The announced interest rates for 3 month loans in the oblast branches of Sberbank grew by 10-20% on average in the past week and have reached 75-85%. Commercial banks' credit rates increased by 5- 10% and are now at an annual rate of 110-130% throughout Russia. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA SUSPECTS IN SHEVARDNADZE ASSASSINATION BID ARRESTED. On 30 August the Georgian security service arrested ten people suspected of perpetrating the previous day's car bomb explosion outside the Georgian parliament, Ekho Moskvy reported. Speaking at a public rally in Tbilisi on 30 August amid intensified security, parliament chairman Eduard Shevardnadze formally announced his candidacy for the 5 November Georgian presidential elections and blamed the assassination attempt on unspecified "dark forces" who had hoped to clear the way for their own presidential candidate, according to Radio Rossii. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. NAZARBAEV WINS REFERENDUM BY A BIG MARGIN. As predicted, preliminary results from the 30 August nationwide referendum show a major victory for Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbaev. Central Election Commission Chairman Yurii Kim told ITAR-TASS on 31 August that 89% approved the new constitution and that 90% of the 8.8 million electorate turned out to vote. The united front of opposition parties boycotted the elections. The turnout was puzzlingly high given widespread apathy and ignorance of the draft constitution (see OMRI Daily Digest, 25 August). More than 10,000 polling booths were in operation, and about 1,000 representatives of political parties and public movements monitored the vote; only 9 international observers were present. Nazarbaev's claim that people fully endorse the new constitution was disputed by Russia's NTV on 30 August, which said studies showed that most people had not even seen the new constitution. Detailed returns will be available in a week. -- Bhavna Dave, OMRI, Inc. UZBEK MILITARY DOCTRINE APPROVED. As widely expected, Uzbekistan's parliament approved the republic's military doctrine on 30 August, Interfax reported. It says that Uzbekistan considers no country its enemy, opposes war as a means to resolve international disputes, and rejects the unilateral use of force unless it or its allies are attacked. In other news, Uzbekistan recorded a 5.7% fall in industrial production in the first six months of this year. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. INDEPENDENCE DAY CENSORSHIP. Uzbekistan's authorities have ordered Uzbek Television to halt broadcasting of two Russian current affairs programs "Vesti" and "Podrobnosti" until the end of independence day celebrations, NTV reported on 29 August. Celebrations for the fourth anniversary of Uzbekistan's independence begin on 31 August; the authorities evidently fear coverage of the event in Russia will be "inadequate," NTV said. ITAR-TASS has estimated that 10,000 people from all over Uzbekistan and abroad will converge on Tashkent for the celebrations. On 31 August 1991, 98.2% of the republic's electorate voted for independence. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc. CIS LUKASHENKA TO RUN IN DUMA ELECTIONS? On 30 August Belarusian radio reported that the Russian electoral bloc Vozrozhdenie plans to include Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in its list of candidates for Russia's parliamentary elections. The bloc also intends to include the president of the self-proclaimed Transdniester Republic, Igor Smirnov. According to Vozrozhdenie head Valerii Skurlatov, both presidents have agreed to the move, although Skurlatov acknowledges that there may be problems registering the two as they are citizens of other countries. Skurlatov plans to get around this by pointing out that although both have different citizenships now, previously they were Soviet citizens. He said the inclusion of such famous individuals on Vozrozhdenie's list is a good illustration of the bloc's goal of "redefining the Russian state within its 1975 borders." -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. [As of 1200 CET] Compiled by Penny Morvant 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. 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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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