|Words that open our eyes to the world are always the easiest to remember. - Ryszard Kapuscinski|
No. 180, Part I, 15 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 YABLOKO, RUSSIA'S DEMOCRATIC CHOICE TO COOPERATE. Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii announced that his party plans to coordinate its candidates in the single-member district races with Yegor Gaidar's Russia's Democratic Choice. Yavlinskii's announcement is a major change in his election tactics, since in recent months he has spurned numerous offers of cooperation with Gaidar. Yavlinskii said that he regards the Communist Party as his main opponent, NTV reported on 14 September. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. AGRARIAN PARTY TO LAUNCH POLL ON PRIVATE LAND OWNERSHIP. Reacting to Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's recent proposal to hold a referendum on private land ownership,(see OMRI Daily Digest, 1 September 1995) Agrarian Party Chairman Mikhail Lapshin told press agencies on 14 September that his party would launch a public campaign and straw poll with the intention of showing that the Russian public opposes private land ownership. In this way, they intend to upstage Chernomyrdin's proposed referendum. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. YELTSIN NAMES HEAD OF NEW ANTI-TERRORISM CENTER. President Boris Yeltsin on 14 September appointed Col. Gen. Viktor Zorin, first deputy director of the Federal Security Service (FSB), to head a new anti-terrorism center under the auspices of the FSB. The center was created last week in response to concern over terrorism in the wake of the Budennovsk hostage crisis. It will increase the influence of the FSB at the expense of the Interior Ministry, which previously shared responsibility for fighting terrorism. Before being appointed to the position of FSB first deputy director six weeks ago, Zorin was responsible for counter- intelligence operations in the security service. Yeltsin also ordered the establishment of eight deputy directorships in the FSB and said there should be no more than 1,520 central administrative personnel, Russian and Western agencies reported. According to the 1995 budget, the FSB employs 76,900 people. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. NEW LOCAL ELECTIONS CREATE LOGISTICAL PROBLEMS. The law on local government signed by President Yeltsin on 28 August, that requires all Russia's cities and villages to hold elections by 1 March 1996 is creating a number of difficulties, according to Deputy Minister of Nationalities and Regional Policy Aleksandr Kotenkov. Among the first priorities is the need to adopt or rewrite laws on local government in Russia's 89 republics and regions, affirm municipal boundaries, and adopt a law on local elections, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 September. Additionally, each municipality must adopt a charter defining the structure of the local government. Kotenkov said the ministry had prepared documents that could be used as models in carrying out these tasks. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov and St. Petersburg Mayor Anatolii Sobchak have criticized the law in recent statements, saying it damages Russian federalism. Sobchak, in particular, warned that the law would revive local councils that would fall under Communist control. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. GOVERNMENT PROMISES JOURNALISTS FINANCIAL HELP. Appearing at the fifth congress of the Union of Journalists in Moscow, Deputy Prime Minister Vitalii Ignatenko announced that the government will soon transfer the first 1 billion rubles ($225,000) to a special insurance fund for journalists, Ekho Moskvy reported on 14 September. The government also plans to use the proceeds of a lottery to be introduced in 1996 for supporting the media, according to Russian Public Television. However, in his address to the congress, Union of Journalists secretary Pavel Gutiontov blamed the president and Federation Council for blocking legislation which he said would have improved the financial condition of the press this year. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. PROCURATOR OPENS CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION OF DUMA BRAWL. The Procurator General's Office opened a criminal investigation of the 9 September brawl in the State Duma under article 206 of the Criminal Code ("malicious hooliganism"), Russian media reported on 14 September. The brawl started when National-Republican Party of Russia leader Nikolai Lysenko attacked defrocked priest Gleb Yakunin, ripping a 19th-century silver cross from his neck; it escalated when Liberal-Democratic Party Chairman Vladimir Zhirinovsky grabbed deputy Yevgeniya Tishkovskaya, who tried to help Yakunin, by the hair. Zhirinovsky remains unrepentant about the fistfight, and Lysenko has refused to return the cross to Yakunin, whom he called a "provocateur." -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. CHERNOMYRDIN REJECTS SHAKHRAI'S PROPOSAL TO LIMIT FOREIGN FILMS. Prime Minister Chernomyrdin dismissed as "lacking great wisdom" Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Shakhrai's proposal to limit foreign programs on state- controlled television, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 September. Shakhrai advocated forcing Russian Public Television (Channel 1) and Russian Television (Channel 2) to reserve 71% of air time for Russian-produced programs, but Chernomyrdin countered that such limits would only increase the popularity of foreign films. Shakhrai, who leads the Party of Russian Unity and Concord (PRES), recently deserted Chernomyrdin's electoral bloc Our Home Is Russia. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. KOZYREV, TALBOTT DISCUSS BOSNIA. In an attempt to ease the rift between the West and Russia over the former Yugoslavia, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott held three hours of talks with Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev in Moscow on 14 September, Western and Russian agencies reported. The BBC reported that Russian troops might be sent to Sarajevo to reassure the Serbs, as part of a recently brokered deal which led to the suspension of NATO air strikes. President Yeltsin on 14 September vetoed two bills passed by the Duma at its 12 August special session, one calling for Russia to withdraw from international sanctions against rump Yugoslavia and the other imposing a trade embargo against Croatia. Yeltsin told Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin that the bills violated international norms. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR CRITICIZES AUSTRALIA. Speaking to the Australian Institute of International Affairs on 14 September, Russian Ambassador to Australia Aleksandr Losyukov accused the country of blocking Russian membership in the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation group (APEC), Western agencies reported. Losyukov said that Russia interpreted Australian opposition to Russian membership as "not just an insult to our pride but also as a desire to undermine our legitimate commercial interests." A spokesman for the Australian government later said APEC has imposed a moratorium on accepting new members, although criteria for new admissions will be discussed at the group's November meeting. He added that Vietnam, not Russia, should be the next country accepted into APEC. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. ISRAEL FAILS TO BUDGE RUSSIA ON IRAN REACTOR. Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin met with Russian officials on 14 September but failed to persuade them to abandon the controversial Iranian reactor deal, Russian and Western agencies reported. Russian Foreign Minister Kozyrev suggested that if Israel is concerned at the spread of nuclear weapons in the Middle East, it should reverse its own long-standing refusal to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Rabin also discussed bilateral trade with Prime Minister Chernomyrdin, including new joint projects in water purification and construction. Russian-Israeli trade totaled $360 million last year and is expected to exceed $400 million in 1995. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIA CLOSES BORDER WITH NORTH KOREA. In response to an outbreak of typhoid caused by recent flooding, Russia has closed its border with North Korea where an epidemic of the disease has infected several thousand people, Interfax reported on 14 September. Diplomats at the North Korean consulate in Vladivostok have refused to confirm the outbreak, but Russian authorities in Primorsk Krai are taking steps to prevent the spread of the disease and recently sent 50 North Korean loggers who crossed the border before its closing back home because medical examinations indicated they were infected. The border closing comes on the heels of Russia's announcement that it will not renew its 1961 treaty of friendship and cooperation with North Korea. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. NUCLEAR-POWERED CRUISER TO BE TESTED. The Peter the Great, the fourth and last of the nuclear-powered Kirov-class cruisers, is being prepared for its builders trials, the Defense Ministry told ITAR-TASS on 14 September. Laid down in 1986 as the Yurii Andropov, the Peter the Great was launched in 1989 but has been lying unfinished in its St. Petersburg shipyard ever since. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. SOBCHAK CALLS FOR CHANGES IN DEFENSE MINISTRY. Budget money for armaments will not get to defense complex enterprises "unless the Defense Ministry leadership is changed," according to St. Petersburg Mayor Anatolii Sobchak. He said the money would "vanish somewhere along the route," Interfax reported on 13 September. Sources in the ministry rebutted his remarks by alleging that only 31% of the budgetary funds allocated for the purchase of arms and military equipment between January and August of this year have been provided to the ministry. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. IMF APPROVES ECONOMIC POLICIES. The IMF approved Russia's economic policies on 14 September and authorized the release of another $525 million credit to the country, Russian and Western agencies reported the same day. The loan is an installment of the $6.3 billion credit approved by the IMF in February, which is to be dispersed only if Russia is able to meet the IMF's stringent economic conditions. So far, reports indicate that Russia is on track as monthly inflation fell to 4.6% in August, the lowest rate since the country began its economic reform program in 1992. The budget deficit is equal to 3.2% of GDP for the first half of the year. This is below the IMF target--but this figure may not include a considerable amount of off-budget spending. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. GOVERNMENT ACCUSES OPPOSITION OF ISSUING FALSE ECONOMIC DATA. The Working Center of Economic Reforms, a government sponsored research institute, issued a statement on 14 September accusing government opponents of presenting false data on the state of the Russian economy in an attempt to boost their electoral chances. According to the statement, reported by ITAR-TASS on 14 September, critics report that industrial production fell by 7-8% in July-August whereas official statistics recorded a rise of 2% in July over the previous month and 1% in August. In comparison with August 1994, industrial production this August was up 0.1%, the statement added. The statement also refuted charges that the crisis on the interbank credit market was provoked by nonpayment from the federal budget. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. NEW CHILD BENEFIT SYSTEM GOES INTO EFFECT. A new system for paying child benefits in which mothers will receive five types of benefits instead of two came into force on 4 September, Social Security Ministry department head Galina Ogurtsova told ITAR-TASS on 12 September. The five are: a onetime payment for future mothers; a pregnancy allowance; a onetime payment on the birth of the child; monthly benefits until the child is 18 months old; and monthly benefits for children up to the age of 16. On 24 May 1996, the onetime payment at birth will be increased from five to 10 times the minimum wage. The benefit for children up to 16 will equal 70% of the minimum wage, currently set at 55,000 rubles ($12) a month. Child benefits for some categories of single parents will also be increased by 50%. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA UN CONFERENCE ON REGIONAL SECURITY OPENS IN TASHKENT. A UN-sponsored conference on the conflicts in Tajikistan and Afghanistan began on 15 September in Tashkent, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 September. The foreign ministers of the Central Asian states, as well as representatives of international organizations, including the UN and CIS, are in attendance. Mehmoud Mestiri and Khalid Malik, the UN secretary general's special envoys to Afghanistan and Uzbekistan, are expected to address the conference. According to the report, Uzbek President Islam Karimov came up with the idea of holding the conference as early as 1993 when he discussed the matter at the 48th session of the UN General Assembly in New York. -- Roger Kangas, OMRI, Inc. CIS KYRGYZSTAN SET TO JOIN CUSTOMS UNION. Representatives from Kyrgyzstan are set to sign documents to gain admission into an existing customs union between Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 September. Entry into the union is expected to be a boost for the Kyrgyz economy, which is experiencing severe difficulties. When Kyrgyzstan joins the customs union, tariffs on imports from and exports to other member states will be phased out, and such goods will not be subject to inspection. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIA PROPOSES TAKE-OVER OF SEVERAL KAZAKH ENTERPRISES. Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets has proposed that Kazakhstan hand over the management of several of its enterprises to Russia in a bid to ease Almaty's debt repayments to Moscow, Interfax reported on 13 September. Soskovets said Russia is mainly interested in acquiring manganese ore and zinc enterprises. Documents on the creation of a series of joint financial-industrial groups, which Soskovets described as "one of the most promising fields of bilateral cooperation," are currently being prepared, Interfax reported. Late in August, Kazakhstani Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin proposed a similar scheme, Interfax reported. -- Bhavna Dave, 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. Before reprinting or redistributing this publication, please write email@example.com 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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