|Life, within doors, has few pleasanter prospects than a neatly arranged and well-provisioned breakfast-table. - Nathaniel Hawthorne|
No. 183, Part I, 20 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 FURTHER DETAILS ON YELTSIN'S DECREE ON LOCAL ELECTIONS. President Boris Yeltsin's decree on local elections calls for gubernatorial elections in Moscow, Novgorod, and Omsk oblasts on 17 December 1995 as an exception to the rest of the governor's elections which will be held in December 1996. He also called for elections of local governments below the level of federation member to be held in December 1996, rather than within six months as the recently adopted law on local government had stipulated, ITAR-TASS reported. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov said he was surprised by the decree and noted that it will put off the city's planned mayoral elections from June 1996 until December, Izvestiya reported on 20 September. However, Sergei Filatov, the presidential chief of staff, told Ekho Moskvy that the mayoral elections may take place in June despite the decree. The decree seems to be an attempt by the president to postpone local elections that will probably go against him until after the June 1996 presidential elections. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. ZYUGANOV ANNOUNCES PLANS TO COOPERATE WITH OTHER OPPOSITION FORCES. In a swing through the Russian Far East, Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov announced that if his party returns to power it will not arrest the current leaders of local governments. He also said the party had informal agreements to work with the Congress of Russian Communities, Power to the People, and the Agrarian party, Segodnya reported on 19 September. He said the Communists and Agrarians had already agreed on 40 mutually-acceptable candidates in the single-members districts. Zyuganov said that with the support of provincial voters, the left opposition could win more than 50% of the seats in the new Duma if the election returns are tabulated honestly. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. EX-GOVERNOR OF BRYANSK DISMISSED FROM OUR HOME IS RUSSIA. The second conference of the Bryansk Oblast branch of Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's bloc, Our Home Is Russia, confirmed the impression that the prime minister's bloc is mainly interested in recruiting politically powerful officials. Delegates voted unanimously to dismiss the bloc's regional chairman, Vladimir Karpov, who had been elected chairman while he still was the governor of Bryansk, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 September. Yeltsin signed a decree removing Karpov from the governor's post on 16 August, ostensibly at Karpov's request. The Our Home Is Russia conference in Bryansk also removed Karpov and his deputy, former vice-governor Sergei Solovev, from the bloc's regional council. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. PROSPECTS FOR CHECHEN ELECTIONS POOR. Speaking at a briefing in Grozny on 19 September, the deputy secretary of the Russian Security Council, Vladimir Rubanov, ruled out elections to a new Chechen parliament before the process of disarmament is complete, Interfax reported. Also on 19 September, a spokesman for the Russian federal troop command in Chechnya similarly said Russian troops would be withdrawn from Chechnya only once the population has surrendered its arms. The Chechen co-chairman of the joint commission to supervise the disarmament process, Aslan Maskhadov, protested for his part that the figure of 30,000 guns which Chechen armed groups are to surrender far exceeds the actual number in their possession. Russian military and Chechen sources again accused each other of violating the ceasefire agreement. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. NATO AGREES TO REVISE CFE TREATY. NATO will offer to alter the terms in the CFE treaty to accommodate Russian concerns, international media reported on 19 September. A NATO spokesman said the offer will be approximately half-way between the flank limits set in the CFE for the Caucasus and Leningrad districts and what the Russians say they need. The treaty sets limits of 1,300 tanks, 1,380 armored fighting vehicles (AFVs), and 1,680 heavy artillery pieces. Two months before the treaty comes into force on 17 November, the U.S. Defense Department estimates that Russia has 3,000 tanks, 5,500 AFVs, and 3,000 artillery pieces in the region. The proposal will be presented at a 20 September NATO meeting in Brussels with the Russian ambassador to NATO, Vitalii Churkin. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc. MORE ON COMECON REVIVAL. Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Demurin told journalists on 19 September that Russia had indeed sent a memorandum to East and Central European embassies in Moscow, urging the revival of "historical commercial links" between the countries of the region and Russia, RFE/RL reported. Demurin denied that the memo amounted to a proposal to revive COMECON, the former communist-block trade institution. However, Polish and Czech diplomats revealed details of the document to RFE/RL correspondents, and its proposals for economic cooperation bear a striking resemblance to the previous operations of COMECON. Both Poland and the Czech Republic have now officially rejected the proposal, although they also expressed the desire to increase trade with Russia. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. DEPUTIES CALL FOR ARMS TO BOSNIAN SERBS. While the Russian government has toned down its verbal blasts against Western policy in the former Yugoslavia, the opposition has not. Displaying shrapnel they claimed had come from Bosnian Serb homes bombed by NATO, a delegation of Duma deputies who recently returned from Serbia and Bosnia accused NATO of "genocide" on 19 September, Russian and Western agencies reported. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. ONE ACTIVIST JAILED, OTHERS FINED FOR OREKHOV RALLY. One activist received a five-day jail sentence and a dozen others were fined on 18 September for taking part in an unauthorized demonstration to protest the imprisonment of Viktor Orekhov, a former KGB officer who was sent to prison for eight years in 1978 for warning dissidents of imminent searches and arrests. The demonstration, organized by the radical Democratic Union, took place in Moscow on 17 September, Russian and Western agencies reported. Orekhov was sentenced to three years imprisonment in July for illegal possession of a firearm, but many human rights activists believe the case against him was fabricated (see OMRI Daily Digest, 7 August 1994). -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. MIGRATION TRENDS. Migration has slowed in recent years despite reports to the contrary, according to Kuranty on 19 September. The paper said the number of Russians moving to cities from the countryside declined from 5.01 million in 1981 to 2.58 million in 1993, before rising again last year to 2.92 million. Migration between Russia and countries outside the former USSR is also relatively low: 45,000 people moved to Russia in 1994, while 113,900 left. Immigration from other former Soviet republics is higher, up from 923,000 in 1993 to 1.15 million last year, but the number of Russians leaving plummeted, from 369,000 in 1993 to 232,000 in 1994. The report attributed those trends to the higher standard of living in Russia relative to the other former Soviet republics, except the Baltic states. It also noted, however, that the net inflow began in the mid-1970s. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. VORKUTA MINERS PROTEST. Miners in Vorkuta picketed the local coal administration on 19 September to demand that the government reach a decision on the future of the Pechora coal basin and that wages in the third quarter be indexed and arrears paid, Russian media reported. Rosugol immediately agreed to take steps to alleviate the situation, which prompted miners to postpone planned mass protests until October. Elsewhere, Sakhalin miners resumed coal deliveries on 15 September after the local administration advanced 21 billion rubles ($4.7 million) to pay wage arrears. The government must be keen to prevent trouble in the coal industry before the December elections. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. CONTRARY TRENDS IN 1995 BUDGET. The head of the State Tax Service, Vladimir Gusev, announced on Russian TV on 18 September that by the end of August firms owed 28 trillion rubles ($6.3 billion) in unpaid taxes to the federal budget. Petr Mostovoi, the head of the Federal Insolvency Administration, said that half of those tax arrears were owed by 46 large firms (in the fields of oil, gas, metallurgy, auto production, and railways). Many of those firms are running at a profit, Mostovoi noted. Despite the high level of arrears, Gusev pointed out that thanks to inflation, tax revenues are expected to be well above planned levels for 1995. -- Peter Rutland, OMRI, Inc. APPROVAL FOR DEFENSE CONVERSION PLAN. The Russian Government's Commission for Operational Questions has approved a 18.6 trillion ruble ($4.2 billion) plan to subsidize the conversion of defense plants to civilian production in 1995-97, ITAR-TASS reported 19 September. The federal budget will provide 7.3 trillion rubles and the remainder will come from special credits and other sources. Deputy Economics Minister Yakov Urinson claimed that conversion programs saved 650,000 jobs and generated 3.9 trillion rubles of civilian production in 1992-94. He suggested that the whole program be placed in an off-budget fund, presumably to protect it from Finance Ministry cost-cutting. -- Peter Rutland, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIA LOOKS TO VIETNAMESE OIL INDUSTRY. Russian Fuel and Energy Minister Yurii Shafranik is on a visit to Vietnam, Business-TASS reported 20 September. The corporation Vietsovpetro, founded in 1981, accounts for 90% of Vietnam's oil production and has assets of $1.5 billion. Shafranik plans to visit the Hoabin hydroelectric station that was built in cooperation with Soviet and Russian firms and tripled the electricity generating capacity of northern Vietnam when it came on stream last December. -- Peter Rutland, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA FORMER AZERBAIJANI FOREIGN MINISTER ARRESTED. Tofik Gasymov, one of the leaders of the Azerbaijan Popular Front and foreign minister in President Abulfaz Elchibey's administration, was arrested in Baku on 19 September on charges of involvement in the alleged March coup attempt by Deputy Interior Minister Rovshan Dzhavadov, Russian media reported. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. AKMOLA RATIFIED AS THE NEW CAPITAL OF KAZAKHSTAN. Kazakhstani President Nazarbaev signed a decree on 16 September transferring the country's capital from Almaty to Akmola, Russian and Kazakhstani media reported on the same day. Akmola is to function as the nation's full-fledged capital by 2000. Both Almaty and Akmola are designated as presidential residences. Nazarbaev's proposal to transfer the capital to Akmola was approved by the parliament in July 1994. The extreme southwestern location of Almaty, its proximity to China, and its high population growth have been officially mentioned as reasons for the move. The transferal of the Kazakh-dominated state bureaucracy to Akmola, located in a Russian-populated region of Kazakhstan, is intended to restore a political balance between Russians and Kazakhs, NTV noted on 16 September. Akmola was known as Akmolinsk during the early Soviet years until former Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev decided to call it Tselinograd or Virgin Land City. -- Bhavna Dave, OMRI, Inc. TAJIK TALKS, NEW PROBLEMS. The fifth round of inter-Tajik talks, scheduled to begin on 18 September, have been postponed. Russian Public Television reported on 18 September that in a meeting with Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov said he had no intention of having a government delegation come to the negotiating table as long as the opposition insists on focusing on the constitution, restructuring the present government ministries, and the return of refugees instead of the establishment of peace. Another issue is the location for the next round of talks. The Tajik government favors Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, while the opposition prefers Tehran, Iran. The UN special envoy, Ramiro Piriz Ballon, offered Vienna as a compromise to which the opposition has agreed. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc. DEVALUATION OF TURKMEN CURRENCY. The Central Bank of Turkmenistan devalued the new official exchange rate for the Turkmen manat on 19 September from 75 manat to $1 to 200 manat to $1, ITAR-TASS reported. The rate applies to government transactions. Individuals will be allowed to buy up to $200 for personal trips abroad at a rate of 500 manat to $1. Only citizens leaving the country for medical treatment or to study abroad and civil servants sent abroad have the right to exchange manat for foreign currency. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc. CIS CHERNOMYRDIN, LUKASHENKA DISCUSS ECONOMIC COOPERATION. Illustrating the difficulties of reintegrating the economies of the former Soviet republics, Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka discussed the uneven implementation of the Russia-Belarus-Kazakhstan customs union in Moscow on 19 September, Russian and Western agencies reported. They agreed to eliminate export duties on trade between the two countries. The two leaders also discussed arrangements for continuing the supply of Russian natural gas to Belarus, which owes Russia $320 million for previous deliveries, according to Russian Public TV. -- Scott Parrish, 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 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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