|Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand. - Thomas Carlyle|
No. 171, Part I, 1 September 1995
[NOTICE TO READERS: The OMRI Daily Digest will not appear on Monday, 4 September 1995, an American holiday.] 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 GOVERNMENT TO SERVE ITS TERM REGARDLESS OF ELECTIONS. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin said that his government will serve until the June 1996 presidential election, regardless of the results of the December parliamentary elections, ITAR-TASS reported on 31 August. According to the Russian Constitution, the government serves at the will of the president, not the parliament. Chernomyrdin said that he would seek to win as many seats in the Duma as possible. His statement reflects the weakness of the legislative branch in relation to the executive. -- Robert Orttung ASSOCIATION OF TELEVISION BROADCASTERS FORMS. A new association of braodcasters has been formed to push for speedier privatization of television facilities and lower taxes for private broadcasters. Representatives of 50 independent television companies, including Russian Public Television (51% state owned), NTV, and 2X2, founded the National Association of Television Broadcasters on 31 August, ITAR-TASS reported. Eduard Sagalaev, the director of TV 6, was elected president of the association. He said that during the campaign the association would support "those forces which favor the continuation of reform" and that if the association decided to support a particular party, it would "achieve remarkable results." Central Electoral Commission head Nikolai Ryabov announced on 31 August that the new regulations for the media during the campaign would guarantee equal access for parties and candidates to state-owned mass media. The formation of the new association gives the broadcasters greater leverage in battling state control. -- Robert Orttung NEW LAW ON LOCAL GOVERNMENT INTENSIFIES DEBATE ABOUT ELECTING GOVERNORS. The new law on local government mandating the election of city and village leaders rather than their appointment by krai and oblast governors has increased calls for the election of the governors themselves, Segodnya reported on 31 August. The Duma adopted the law at its 12 August special session, and Yeltsin signed it on 29 August. Anatolii Sliva, chairman of the Duma Committee on Local Government, believes that the governors should be elected, while the Yeltsin administration opposes the idea. About 30 krais and oblasts have taken steps to hold elections to their executive branch, Rossiiskie vesti noted on 31 August. If the governors are elected on the same day as Duma deputies, as some propose, they could become members of the parliament's upper house. The future composition of the Federation Council is in doubt after Yeltsin vetoed a law calling for its members to be directly elected. -- Robert Orttung CHERNOMYRDIN WARNS OF REFERENDUM ON LAND OWNERSHIP. The prime minister warned parliament that the government will call a referendum on land ownership if lawmakers do not rapidly enact new legislation to settle the issue, ITAR-TASS reported on 31 August. Without a new law, "economic reforms will not make progress," Chernomyrdin said during a visit to an agricultural fair in St. Petersburg. "Who will pour money into a factory if he does not own the land on which it is built?" he questioned. Chernomyrdin also criticized leaders of the powerful farming lobby, which represents state and collective farms and food-processing plants, for blocking private land ownership. -- Thomas Sigel YELTSIN TELLS STUDENTS TO REMEMBER LESSONS OF THE PAST. In a televised address to mark the beginning of the new academic year, Yeltsin told school children to respect the past but not forget the atrocities committed by the communist regime. Speaking on Russian Public Television on 31 August, the president said the country's history must be treated with care and respect, but "at the same time let us not forget what the Communist Party did to Russia, how many officers, scientists, intellectuals, and peasants perished." -- Penny Morvant SOLZHENITSYN BEGINS ANOTHER TOUR OF THE PROVINCES. The writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn began a tour of Penza, Samara, and Saratov Oblasts on 31 August, ITAR-TASS reported. He plans to investigate the problems of local government, small cities, and refugees from other former Soviet republics. The writer took a train trip across the country in the summer of 1994 and now hosts a weekly television show. Although the former dissident does not have much impact on national politics, his activities are drawing attention to problems outside Russia's large cities. -- Robert Orttung MUTUAL ACCUSATIONS IN GROZNY. Following a session in Grozny on 31 August of the special observer commission to monitor implementation of the 30 July ceasefire agreement, the Russian and Chechen co-chairmen told Russian media that the disarmament process has been extended to 33 villages, with a total of 905 weapons surrendered. The chief Chechen negotiator Hodj-Ahmed Yarikhanov told Ekho Moskvy, however, that Russian federal troops are violating the ceasefire agreement by bombarding Chechen villages; he also accused Moscow of "trying to split the Chechen people." A spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry told Interfax that five Russian servicemen were killed over the previous 24 hours in Chechen attacks on Russian positions. Also on 31 August, Interfax quoted an official from the Russian Fuel and Energy Ministry as stating that Chechnya is currently producing 120,000 tons of oil per month and could resume oil refining at any time. -- Liz Fuller RUSSIA PROTESTS NATO ATTACKS IN BOSNIA. On 31 August, Russian political leaders of all persuasions continued to condemn the ongoing NATO airstrikes against Bosnian Serb positions. A statement issued by the Russian Foreign Ministry said that the bombardment "must be stopped," because it "goes beyond the framework" of existing UN Security Council resolutions, Interfax reported. Ministry spokesman Grigorii Karasin reiterated Moscow's position that the Yugoslav conflict can only be resolved through negotiations and criticized NATO Secretary General Willy Claes for his "tendentious" comments on Yeltsin's reaction to the airstrikes. -- Scott Parrish RUSSIA POWERLESS TO INFLUENCE YUGOSLAV EVENTS. Russia has lost all influence over events in the former Yugoslavia, according to commentary in the Russian press over the last two days. Izvestiya on 1 September noted that the recent NATO airstrikes were launched without even consulting Moscow, despite the fact that Russia formally remains a member of the international Contact Group seeking a negotiated settlement of the conflict. Sergei Rogov, director of the USA/Canada Institute, told The Washington Post that the airstrikes demonstrate the "complete collapse of the notion of Russian-Western partnership" and show "how much the West ignores Russia." -- Scott Parrish RUSSO-JAPANESE TALKS END WITHOUT AGREEMENT. Russian and Japanese negotiators have again failed to reach agreement over fishing rights off the disputed south Kuril Islands. Their talks were suspended after two days, international agencies reported. Russia claims that Japanese fisherman poach in Russian territorial waters, and Russian border guards have fired on Japanese vessels in the past, aggravating already shaky relations between the two countries. On the eve of the talks, comments by Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev describing the disputed islands as "genuine Russian territory," which had been "returned" to Russia as a result of WW II, provoked a storm of criticism in the Japanese press. -- Scott Parrish HIGH LEVEL OF RADIATION IN KOLA GULF . . . The level of radioactive contamination in the Kola Gulf is higher than in the area of the Norwegian Sea where a Russian nuclear submarine sank, according to the director of the Kola Research Institute of Marine Life, Professor Gennadii Matishev. ITAR-TASS on 31 August summarized an interview with Matishev appearing in Murmanskii vestnik. The Kola Gulf is the narrow fjord off the Barents Sea on which Murmansk and the Russian naval base of Severomorsk are located. The report said that nuclear waste once dumped into the sea had accumulated in hollows on the bottom of the gulf and posed a serious threat both to marine life and to the local population. -- Doug Clarke . . . AND THE URALS NUCLEAR LEGACY. Nuclear waste at the Mayak Chemical Complex in the Urals is "an ecological bomb for Russia," Izvestiya warned on 30 August. It said that the water level is rising in one of three reservoirs built to hold radioactive water and that contaminated ground water is spreading under the Karachai Lake, into which all nuclear wastes had been drained and which is now being filled in. A plan to build a nuclear power station that would use plutonium accumulated at the Mayak Chemical Complex is on hold owing to lack of funding, the paper said. -- Penny Morvant EBRD CREATES $30 MILLION VENTURE FUND IN URALS. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has created a regional venture fund in Yekaterinburg that will invest $30 million in the charter capital of small and medium-sized industrial enterprises. The EBRD appointed the U.K.'s Fleming Investment Ltd., an investment bank, as the fund's managing company. The venture will invest in enterprises in Sverdlovsk, Chelyabinsk, and Perm Oblasts over a 10-year period. -- Thomas Sigel TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA MKHEDRIONI IMPLICATED IN SHEVARDNADZE ASSASSINATION BID. On 31 August officials investigating the car bomb in Tbilisi two days earlier discovered quantities of arms and ammunition, ampoules of morphine, and hard currency in the parliamentary officies of Mkhedrioni leader Dzhaba Ioseliani, Russian media reported. Ioseliani has denied involvement in the attack; he also told Ekho Moskvy that he has no intention of standing as a candidate against Georgian parliament chairman Eduard Shevardnadze in the November presidential elections. -- Liz Fuller CILLER IN TBILISI. Turkish Prime Minister Tansu Ciller arrived in Tbilisi on 31 August for one day's talks with Georgian parliament chairman Shevardnadze, Interfax reported. The two leaders signed a protocol on restructuring Georgian repayments of a $50 million Turkish loan granted in 1993 to finance economic development; Ciller subsequently told journalists that Turkey would advance Georgia new credits totaling $150 million. -- Liz Fuller NAZARBAEV HAILS VICTORY, DISMISSES CRITICISM . . . Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev hailed his victory in the referendum on the new constitution, international and Russian media reported on 31 August. Nazarbaev cited the overwhelming support of the people as vivid proof of the constitution's legitimacy, thereby dismissing Western criticism that the new constitution violates democratic norms and consolidates his personal power. According to ITAR-TASS on 31 August, opposition party leaders claimed that less than half the electorate voted in Almaty, not 90% as officially reported. A leader of the Slavic movement Lad from eastern Kazakhstan told Reuters that the voting figures had been "officially falsified." -- Bhavna Dave . . . PROMISES NEW LEGISLATION. At his first post-victory press conference, Nazarbaev promised immediately to pass a new election law and set a date for parliamentary elections, Western and Russian media reported on 31 August. Nazarbaev confirmed the decision to move the nation's capital from Almaty to Akmola and indicated that he would make "serious changes to improve" the team of ministers. -- Bhavna Dave TURKMENISTAN ACTIVATED? Turkmenistan's Deputy Prime Minister Boris Shikhmuradov visited Dushanbe on 31 August in a bid to ensure that Ashgabat is the venue of the 5th round of inter-Tajik talks scheduled for 18 September and to make arrangements to open an embassy in Dushanbe. He also laid the groundwork for a conference which will deal with barter issues involving Russia's three closest partners in the south--Tajikistan, Iran, and Turkmenistan, Russian media reported. Isolationist Ashgabat has studiously avoided involvement in any aspect of the Tajik problem, but when cementing ties with Russia in May, Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov pledged to do his best to help resolve the conflict. A trilateral economic arrangement would be equally groundbreaking but only survive if Russia gives its blessing. -- Lowell Bezanis TAJIK OPPOSITION APPLIES PRESSURE BEFORE TALKS BEGIN. With the next round of negotiations between the Tajik government and opposition scheduled to begin on 18 September, the anti-government forces are resorting to their customary tactic of stepping up military pressure. Aside from attempts by the rebels to cross the border from Afghanistan, the opposition is waging a terror campaign within Tajikistan. Civilians have been killed in the Rogun area to the east of Dushanbe, and opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri claims that members of his forces in the Khorog region to the south will remain there, according to Interfax. The commander of the Russian-led CIS Peacekeeping Force, Lt. Gen. Valentin Bobryshev, said recently that there are more than 2,000 armed rebels inside Tajikistan, mainly in the Garm district in the northeast. -- Bruce Pannier CIS MINSK DENIES LUKASHENKA WILL STAND IN DUMA ELECTIONS. Deputy head of the Presidential Administration Uladzimir Zamyatalin said reports that Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has agreed to run in the Russian Duma elections are "absurd," Belarusian radio reported on 30 August. Earlier that day reports said the electoral bloc "Vozrozhdenie" was planning to add Lukashenka to its list of candidates and quoted bloc leader Valerii Skurlatov as saying the president had agreed to his inclusion. According to Zamyatalin, Lukashenka had never heard of the idea. -- Ustina Markus [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. 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