|The universe is full of magical things, patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper. - Eden Phillpotts|
No. 175, Part I, 8 September 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 RYBKIN BLOC GARNERS PROMINENT INDIVIDUALS, SUFFERS ANOTHER DEFECTION. The top three candidates of Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin's left-center bloc will be Rybkin, reform economist Stanislav Shatalin, and Col.-Gen. Boris Gromov, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 September. Gromov was the last commander of Soviet forces in Afghanistan and left the Defense Ministry after clashing with Defense Minister Pavel Grachev. Other prominent members of the bloc, which will campaign under the slogan "My Homeland," include former presidential chief of staff Yurii Petrov, chairman of the Russian Television Radio Company Oleg Poptsov, and Imperial Bank President Sergei Rodionov. One of the bloc's founding members, Duma deputy Vyacheslav Nikonov, announced his departure because he was unhappy with his rank on the party's list and said other Duma members were likely to follow suit, NTV reported on 7 September. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. CHRISTIAN-DEMOCRATIC UNION ANNOUNCES CAMPAIGN PLANS. The Christian- Democratic Union will campaign to remove criminals and corruption from the State Duma, party leader Vitalii Savitskii announced in Moscow, Russian Public Television reported on 7 September. He expressed concern that the Duma had rejected attempts to limit deputies' immunity, creating a situation where the next Duma could have as many as 50% of its members, according to his estimation, under criminal investigation. The Orthodox church has said it will not support any Christian parties. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. COSSACK ATAMANS MEET IN MOSCOW. More than 300 Cossack Atamans from across Russia attended a Moscow congress to discuss the 9 August presidential decree establishing a state register for Cossack groups, NTV and Radio Rossii reported on 7 September. Presidential chief of staff Sergei Filatov read President Boris Yeltsin's address, which called on Cossacks to participate in civil and military service. The congress asked the president and government to create legal conditions for Cossack land ownership and self-government, Rossiiskaya gazeta reported on 8 September. However, Izvestiya warned the same day that creating formal Cossack institutions would lead to "dual power" and inevitably to conflict between Cossacks and local authorities. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. SOLZHENITSYN: "ONLY THE ZEMSTVO CAN SAVE US." Former dissident writer and Nobel laureate Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said Russia's problems can only be solved by reviving the zemstvo system, elected councils that handled most local administration from 1864 until 1917, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 September. Appearing at a Samara conference on the zemstvo, Solzhenitsyn called for the State Duma to complete and pass a law currently being drafted on local self-government. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. CALLS FOR REFERENDUM TO ABOLISH PRESIDENCY IN CHUVASHIYA. Opponents of Chuvash President Nikolai Fedorov have collected 25,000 signatures in favor of a referendum to abolish the presidency in Chuvashiya, Russian TV reported on 6 September. The Chuvash State Soviet will now decide whether to call a referendum, ITAR-TASS reported. Fedorov was elected the first post-Soviet president of Chuvashiya in December 1993 with less than 30% of the vote. He has frequently clashed with the anti-reformist majority in the soviet (see OMRI Daily Digest, 11 and 14 July 1995). -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. SUPPORT FOR ZHIRINOVSKY IN ARMY STILL STRONG. Roughly 15% of Russian soldiers surveyed in August said they trusted Liberal-Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky more than any other politician, according to the 3-10 September edition of Moskovskie novosti. Zhirinovsky finished first in a similar poll in March 1995. Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii finished second in the August poll, up from eighth place in March, while Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin dropped from second to fifth place. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov's support in the military was more stable; he finished third in both surveys. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. MOSCOW WANTS TO SCRAP TREATY WITH NORTH KOREA. Moscow has proposed to Pyongyang that the 1961 treaty committing Russia to come to North Korea's aid in case of an attack be scrapped and replaced by a new friendship agreement, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced on 7 September. ITAR-TASS reported that the new agreement would contain no provisions regarding military assistance should either party become the object of an armed attack. The treaty, which was due for renewal later this month, expires in September 1996. Russian-North Korean relations have been strained since the Soviet Union recognized South Korea in 1990. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. YELTSIN SIGNS LAW ON HUMANITARIAN AID FOR YUGOSLAVIA. President Yeltsin on 7 September signed a law allowing Russian firms to trade with rump Yugoslavia, so long as the deals involve only "humanitarian" goods, ITAR-TASS reported. The law, designed to facilitate the delivery of Russian food and medicine to rump Yugoslavia while UN economic sanctions are in effect, was passed by the State Duma during its 12 August special session. The new law could bring Russia into conflict with the UN sanctions regime, however, as it includes fuel among the commodities that can be shipped. Yeltsin's parliamentary critics are calling for Russia to withdraw entirely from UN sanctions against rump Yugoslavia. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. DEFECTOR: IRAQ HAS ORDERED 4,000 RUSSIAN TANKS. Iraqi defector General Hussein Kamel Hassan claimed that Iraq has ordered 4,000 modern tanks from Russia to replace those lost during the 1991 Gulf War, Western agencies reported on 6 September. The agency said Hassan told that to UN disarmament chief Rolf Ekeus when the two met in Jordan in late August. Hassan reportedly said that Iraq was hoping to buy both T-80 tanks and the new T-90, to be delivered over several years once the UN arms embargo is lifted. The defector reasserted his claim on 8 August in the wake of denials by Rosvooruzhenie, the state-owned Russian military export firm. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. POWER CUT OFF AT NORTHERN, BALTIC MILITARY DEPOTS. Energy supplies to several mine and torpedo storage depots of the Russian Northern Fleet were cut off by Arkhangelsk authorities following the fleet's failure to pay its bills, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 September. Earlier the same day, the city administration in the Crimean port of Sevastopol threatened to cut off power supplies to the Black Sea Fleet for the same reason. On 4 September, the power was turned off at 24 facilities of the Baltic Fleet Air Force because of unpaid bills, Russian Public Television reported. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. SARATOV DEFENSE-INDUSTRY WORKERS PROTEST. Employees of the Saratov military-industrial complex held a rally on 5 September to draw attention to the plight of the defense industry in the city. Izvestiya on 8 September said the protest was initiated by the Saratov Aircraft Plant, which has been idle for two years and has debts of more than 100 billion rubles ($22 million), including 7 billion ($1.5 million) in unpaid wages. Presumably hoping to boost their electoral prospects, Communist Party officials took an active part in the demonstration. No other political party has taken up the cause of the region's defense workers. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. PENSIONS TO BE INDEXED IN 1996. Pension Fund head Vasilii Barchuk told a cabinet meeting on 7 September that, despite the fund's financial difficulties, in 1996 pensions will be indexed every quarter to take account of inflation. According to ITAR-TASS, the minimum pension will rise by about 36% during the year and the average pension by about 28%, to 313,500 rubles a month by December 1996. The minimum pension is currently 55,000 rubles, but pensioners also receive a monthly compensation payment of 50,000 rubles, which will be discontinued. Barchuk said that the fund's budget is under strain because of a shortfall in contributions from enterprises, the increase in the minimum pension, and the one-time payments to World War II veterans on the 50th anniversary of V-E Day. Many pensioners have been receiving their payments late as a result of the fund's difficulties. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. GOVERNMENT TO TACKLE TAX ARREARS PROBLEM. Russian firms by early August owed 23.5 trillion rubles ($520 million) in late tax payments, according to Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais, Segodnya reported on 7 September. Since July 1994, the government has allowed enterprises to reserve 30% of their incomes for paying employee wages; that serves as a legal loophole to evade federal taxes. Segodnya indicated that this "30-70" scheme accounts for 60% of the tax arrears. The same day, the Commission on Streamlining the System of Payments and Settlements identified 46 large companies guilty of tax arrears and demanded that they begin paying, Kommersant-Daily reported on 7 September. The commission also called for the Railways Ministry and Fuel and Energy Ministry to cut their tax debts in half by 1 January 1996. The State Tax Service and tax police were ordered to ensure that tax delinquent firms meet their payments. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. FOREIGN INVESTMENT UP. Foreign investors have infused more than $700 million into the Russian economy in the first half of 1995, Ekho Moskvy reported on 6 September. According to government statistics, the figure is 25% more than the same period one year ago. Around $200 million has gone to Moscow projects. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. INDUSTRIAL OUTPUT DOWN IN KHABAROVSK. Industrial production in the Khabarovsk krai in Russia's far east has declined 19% in the first seven months of 1995 compared with the same period last year, Segodnya reported on 5 September. Steel production is down by more than 50%, and consumer-goods production shrank by 25%. In July, workers had to take leave without pay or with only partial wage payment, the report said. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA TAJIK, RUSSIAN PRESIDENTS MEET IN MOSCOW. Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov met with Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and signed agreements on bilateral cooperation as well as a protocol on dual citizenship, according to Western sources. Tajikistan is only the second country, after Turkmenistan, to sign a dual citizenship accord with Russia. Discussion centered on the 17 September peace talks between the Tajik government and the opposition. The Tajik government remains in power largely because of the presence of Russian troops along the Afghan border and financial support from Moscow. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc. SHARP FALL IN KAZAKHSTAN GRAIN HARVEST EXPECTED. Kazakhstan, a major source of grain exports to neighboring states, is facing a sharply reduced grain harvest this year because of drought and fuel shortages, Interfax reported on 7 September. Specialists at the Agriculture and Food Ministry estimate a harvest of 12-14 million metric tons this year- -which still exceeds Kazakhstan's domestic demand for grain, estimated at 5-7 million metric tons, but sharply hurts its exports. Kazakhstan harvested 18 million metric tons of grain in 1994 and 22 million metric tons in 1993. Russia is also expecting its worst grain harvest in 30 years because of dry weather. -- Bhavna Dave, OMRI, Inc. IRAN TO BUILD GAS PIPELINE FROM TURKMENISTAN. Iran and Turkmenistan concluded a deal on the construction of a 140-km gas pipeline to supply Turkmen gas to northern Iran, IRNA reported on 6 September. Iranian Oil Minister Golamreza Aghazadeh, returning from Ashgabat, said the pipeline will cost $190 billion, with Iran offering 80% of the financing, AFP reported on 7 September. Construction will start soon and is expected to be completed in two years. The pipeline is part of a major project signed last summer between Iran and Turkmenistan to transport Turkmen gas to Europe via Iran and Turkey. The extended pipeline, 4,000 km long, is estimated to be constructed in five years. The financing for the project, estimated to cost around $9 billion, is yet to be concluded. In contrast, there appears to be no progress on Turkmen plans to build a pipeline to Pakistan via Afghanistan. -- Bhavna Dave, OMRI, Inc. KYRGYZ-PAKISTANI POWER DEAL FACES FINANCIAL PROBLEMS. An agreement between Kyrgyzstan and Pakistan, in which Kyrgyzstan is to provide Pakistan with 3-6 billion kilowatts of electricity annually, has run into financial problems, Kyrgyz Radio reported on 6 September. The agreement was signed during Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's visit to Kyrgyzstan last month. The deal could generate much-needed cash for the Kyrgyz Energy Holding Company. Domestic electricity rates within Kyrgyzstan are heavily subsidized, yet consumers still owe the electricity company 380 million som ($40 million). A new power line, for which the government is seeking financing, will have to be built to carry the electricity to Pakistan. -- Bhavna Dave, OMRI, Inc. ATMS IN TURKMENISTAN. Turkmenistan is preparing to introduce electronic cash cards before the end of the year, according to the Turkmen press as cited by the BBC. Turkmenistan's Bank for Foreign Economic Activity is said to be negotiating with an unnamed French company to produce the automatic teller machine cards. The cards will first be issued in Ashgabat, where there will be 14 machines. The plan will be gradually extended to other regions of the republic. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc. [As of 1200 CET] Compiled by Susan Caskie 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. Before reprinting or redistributing this publication, please write firstname.lastname@example.org for a copy of the new policy or look at this URL: http://www.omri.cz/Publications/Digests/DigestReprint.html 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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