|The burnt child shuns the fire until the next day. - Mark Twain|
No. 181, Part I, 18 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 REGISTRATION REVOKED. The Central Electoral Commission annulled the registration of the Ivan Rybkin Bloc on 15 September following the withdrawal of My Fatherland, ITAR-TASS reported. Rybkin's bloc now has to file new papers to compete in the campaign. Besides Duma speaker Rybkin, the bloc's top leaders are Deputy Duma Speaker Artur Chilin-garov and Yurii Petrov, former presidential chief of staff and now leader of the Union of Realists. These relatively unknown figures give the bloc little chance of success. My Fatherland elected Col. Gen. Boris Gromov its leader the same day. -- Robert Orttung KOVALEV: HUMAN RIGHTS IN RUSSIA DETERIORATING. As he accepted the first Nuremberg International Human Rights Prize in Germany on 17 September, veteran human rights campaigner Sergei Kovalev said Russia's new democracy is on shaky ground. As a result of the conflict in Chechnya, he said, militarization has received a boost and decision-making mechanisms are no longer transparent, Western agencies reported. Before leaving for Germany, Kovalev urged the West to be more direct in its criticism of human rights violations in Russia but recommended that the country be admitted to the Council of Europe as a way of forcing the authorities to adhere to a fixed calendar for human rights improvements. -- Penny Morvant FORMER CHECHEN-INGUSH PARLIAMENT BACKS TALKS. Meeting in Grozny on 16 September, 98 of the 173 deputies to the Chechen-Ingush Supreme Soviet dissolved by Dzhokhar Dudaev in September 1991 expressed their support for the ongoing talks on disarmament and a political settlement to the Chechen conflict, Interfax reported. They also undertook to draft a new constitution and election laws. Zavgaev himself rejected the alternative election law proposed by Umar Avturkhanov's Committee for National Accord as "dangerously explosive," as it permits only persons currently resident in Chechnya to participate in the elections. -- Liz Fuller POWER TO PLESETSK CUT OFF. Regional power authorities cut off the power to the Plesetsk strategic missile testing site on 15 September because the Strategic Missile Forces had not paid their electric bill, ITAR-TASS reported the following day. According to the report, the testing site was using its own back-up emergency power system to remain functional. The missile forces are said to owe the power authorities a total of 73 billion rubles ($17 million), of which 17 billion rubles ($4 million) is Plesetsk's debt. -- Doug Clarke YELTSIN DECREE OUTLINES RUSSIAN CIS STRATEGY. President Boris Yeltsin on 14 September signed a decree outlining Russian strategy towards the countries of the CIS, ITAR-TASS reported on 16 September. The decree states that Russia's goal is the "creation of an integrated political and economic community of states which can aspire to a respected position in the world," and argues that the CIS is a priority area for Russia because of "important vital interests" in the areas of "security, economics, and the defense of Russians living abroad." The decree calls for closer economic ties and underlines the importance of forming a military alliance in order to create an effective "collective defense" system. Russian officials and commentators have often warned that such a CIS military pact might be one of Russia's responses to NATO expansion. -- Scott Parrish RUSSIA HAILS POSSIBLE BOSNIA SETTLEMENT. In remarks much milder in tone than recent Russian declarations, Foreign Minster Andrei Kozyrev told journalists on 15 September that the U.S.-brokered deal to end the siege of Sarajevo offers a "real chance" of resolving the Bosnian conflict, Western and Russian agencies reported. On 17 September, a nationalist demonstration against the NATO air strikes, staged outside the U.S. embassy in Moscow, gathered only a few hundred protesters. -- Scott Parrish KOZYREV DENIES RUSSIA PROPOSED NEW COMECON. On 15 September, Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev refuted reports in the Polish media (see OMRI Daily Digest, 15 September 1995) that Russia had proposed the formation of a new economic-political bloc in Eastern and Central Europe similar to the communist-era COMECON, Western agencies reported. Kozyrev said that although Russia wants to deepen economic cooperation with countries in the region, where Russian foreign trade has plunged since the dissolution of COMECON, it is not considering the creation of a new regional organization. Increased trade between the countries of the region and Russia should not be viewed as "directed against NATO," he added. -- Scott Parrish COMPROMISE ON RUSSIAN CFE VIOLATIONS POSSIBLE? The U.S. and its NATO allies met in Brussels to discuss a plan to offer Russia a compromise proposal that would allow it to retain more weapons in the Caucasus than the 1990 CFE treaty allows, Reuters reported, citing U.S. officials on 15 September. The agency quoted an unnamed U.S. official as saying that something must be done to avoid a "train wreck" on 17 November when the treaty's limits become binding. Russia might be allowed to have more weapons than the treaty allows in the flank zones that include the Caucasus but less than it has stationed there now. The Republican-led U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee immediately issued a sharp condemnation of the proposed compromise. -- Doug Clarke YELTSIN SUBMITS CHEMICAL WEAPONS DESTRUCTION BILL TO DUMA. President Boris Yeltsin has submitted a draft law on the destruction of Russia's 40,000 metric tons of chemical weapons agents to the State Duma, Interfax reported on 16 September. The draft law is said "to provide a legislative basis to the work on the destruction of chemical weapons stored on the territory of the Russian Federation while ensuring the safety of the population and the environment." Yeltsin signed a decree on 25 March to have the weapons destroyed at specially-built plants near their current storage sites. The government approved the destruction plan on July, at which time a government spokesman estimated that it would cost some $5.5 billion to destroy the Russian chemical stockpile. -- Doug Clarke PREPARATIONS FOR JOINT U.S.-RUSSIAN EXERCISE SUSPENDED. Preparations for Russian participation in a joint Russian-U.S. peacekeeping exercise have been suspended because of Russia's displeasure with the NATO bombing of the Bosnian Serbs, Interfax reported on 15 September. A team of Russian officers was scheduled to fly to the U.S. on 16 September to prepare for exercise "Peacekeeper-95," to be held in October at Fort Riley, Kansas. A Defense Ministry source told the agency that the team's departure had been "postponed for an indefinite period." The same source indicated that the exercise might be canceled. A similar exercise took place in Russia in September 1994. It too was subject to several delays. -- Doug Clarke RUSSIAN, U.S. SECURITY OFFICERS DETAIN KIDNAPPERS. Russian and U.S. embassy security officials have detained two men who took a U.S. citizen hostage on 12 September and demanded a ransom of $40,000, Interfax reported. The Interior Ministry said the two were picked up on 15 September as they were receiving the ransom. Meanwhile, Russian security forces are still searching for two people in connection with the grenade attack on the U.S. embassy on 13 September. -- Penny Morvant RUSSIAN FOREIGN TRADE PROSPERS. Fears that the introduction of the "ruble corridor" in July would make exports less profitable appear to be unfounded. Russia's foreign trade turnover for the first eight months of the year stood at $49.8 billion, a rise of 24% over the same period in 1994, Business-Tass reported on 15 September. Imports from January to August were $36.8 billion, 17% up on last year, leaving a trade surplus of $13 billion. The volume of oil exports fell 5%, while gas exports rose 3%. Overall, Russian industrial production over eight months fell by 8% compared to the same period last year. Light industry output fell by 31%, while the production of sectors oriented towards exports (such as metals, oil, and chemicals) rose by 10%. -- Peter Rutland FEDERAL BUDGET ON COURSE... The Ministry of Finance expects the 1995 budget deficit to be below planned levels, despite the need for additional unexpected spending, Rossiiskie vesti reported on 15 September. Additional expenditures include 13 trillion rubles ($2.9 billion) to cover the 54% indexation of state employee wages, and a transfer of 4.2 trillion rubles ($944 million) to the budget of the Chechen Republic. So far this year the federal budget deficit has stayed below the planned target of 3.2% of GDP. Higher than expected inflation means that revenue will run above the planned level, while spending has been kept to the targeted level. The annual deficit is now predicted to be 58.7 trillion rubles ($13.2 billion) instead of the projected 73.2 trillion ($16.5 billion), Delovoi mir reported on 15 September. Peter Rutland ...BUT PENSION FUND IN TROUBLE. Three million pensions were paid late in September, according to Akim Khormushin, deputy minister of social security, Russian TV reported on 15 September. Khor-mushin, addressing a joint meeting of representatives of the government and the Pension Fund, added that 7 million of Russia's 37 million pensions were paid late in July and 10 million in August. The meeting blamed employers for failing to make their social insurance payments, and rejected the Duma's suggestion that the government take responsibility for firms' arrears. Deputy Prime Minister Yurii Yarov said on Radio Rossii on 11 September that the Pension Fund was 12 trillion rubles ($2.7 billion) in arrears, and faced monthly outlays of 8.5 trillion ($1.9 billion). According to clause 395.1 of the Civil Code indexation is obligatory for delayed wages and pensions. -- Peter Rutland TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA CHERNOMYRDIN IN TBILISI. Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin traveled to Tbilisi on 15 September for talks with Georgian parliament chairman Eduard Shevardnadze on economic issues and progress in resolving the conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetiya, Russian media reported. On 17 September, Interfax and Radio Rossii quoted a spokesman for the Abkhaz Supreme Soviet as stating that agreement was reached on a joint Russian-Georgian military operation "to restore Georgia's territorial integrity"--the primary precondition for signing the Russian-Georgian agreement on military bases. The two sides also signed bilateral agreements on legal and economic assistance, rail transport, and export control. -- Liz Fuller TASHKENT CONFERENCE ON REGIONAL SECURITY ENDS. Representatives from 16 different countries, including members of the UN, OSCE, and CIS, attended the conference that was called to find common ground on the conflict in Afghanistan and the situation in Tajikistan. The day before, the same agency reported that Uzbek President Islam Karimov proposed a permanent UN working group that will continue to review those ongoing crises. -- Roger Kangas NUKUS CONFERENCE ON THE ARAL SEA CRISIS BEGINS. Leaders of all five Central Asian states are expected to attend an 18-20 September high- level conference on the Aral Sea sponsored by the UN Development Program (UNDP) in the Karakalpak capital of Nukus, Western sources reported. The conference is expected to reach agreement on a $200 million UN-World Bank program to deal with the consequences of the shrinking of the Aral Sea. Recent estimates note that the sea has lost over 50% of its area and 75% of its volume since 1960, almost entirely as a result of irrigation and planting strategies developed during the Soviet era. -- Roger Kangas RIVAL TAJIK UNITS CLASH AGAIN. Five soldiers were killed as armed conflict broke out again in Tajikistan on 17 September when the Tajik Army's 1st brigade staged a dawn attack on the 11th brigade using artillery, tanks, and armored vehicles, ITAR-TASS reported. The attack was carried out in response to arrest warrants for several officers in the 11th brigade recently issued by the Tajik prosecutor general. The two units have been at odds with each other since June when the 11th brigade's commander was assassinated. Both of the extremely well-armed groups are in competition for control of the Kurgan-Tyube region's economy. -- Bruce Pannier CIS RUSSIA AND GEORGIA SIGN BASE AGREEMENT. Georgian leader Eduard Shevardnadze and Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin signed a long-anticipated agreement on 15 September that allows Russia to keep three military bases in the Caucasian republic in return for economic help, Reuters reported. In February 1994, the two countries signed a protocol of intent for Russia to keep its bases at Vaziani, about 30 km south of Tbilisi, Akhalkalaki, and Batumi. Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev initialed the agreement in March of this year. -- Doug Clarke [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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