|Comedy is an escape, not from truth but from despair; a narrow escape into faith. - Christopher Fry|
No. 184, Part I, 21 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 LOBOV, KHADZHIEV ESCAPE BOMB ATTACK. The Russian presidential representative in Chechnya, Oleg Lobov, escaped unhurt when a 200 kg bomb exploded under a bridge near Grozny over which he was driving on the morning of 20 September, Russian media reported. Lobov was accompanied by Prime Minister Salambek Khadzhiev and National Accord Committee Chairman Umar Avturkhanov. President Boris Yeltsin condemned the incident, which he said was intended to thwart efforts to implement the military agreement and to reach a political settlement in Chechnya. Chechen military commander Aslan Maskhadov denied that his forces were responsible for the explosion, according to Ekho Moskvy. Maskhadov further stated that those heavy weapons that the Chechens had intended to surrender had been moved back to offensive positions in response to the ultimatum to disarm issued by the Russian federal troop command on 19 September, NTV reported. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. GUNMEN HIJACK BUS IN DAGESTAN. In the first major hostage situation in Russia since Budennovsk, on 20 September two gunmen hijacked a bus in Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan, Russian and Western agencies reported. The gunmen seized the bus and its 19 passengers after escaping from police during a routine search. Surrounded by police, the hijackers have demanded $1.5 million and a getaway helicopter, according to ITAR- TASS. The incident is the latest in a long-running string of such incidents in the North Caucasus region of Russia, labeled the "Bermuda Triangle" by some journalists because of frequent hijackings. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. PURGE AT FEDERAL SECURITY SERVICE. Federal Security Service Director Colonel General Mikhail Barsukov fired three senior officials on 17 September: Anti-Terrorist Department head Col. Gen. Anatolii Semenov, former FSB Deputy Director Lt. Gen. Igor Mezhakov, and the FSB head in Stavropol Krai, Moskovskii komsomolets reported on 19 September. The dismissals are assumed to be a response to the failure of the security services during the Budennovsk hostage taking in June. Mezhakov is reportedly a relative of First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets-- their wives are sisters. -- Peter Rutland, OMRI, Inc. GENERAL ROKHLIN RUNNING FOR DUMA TO HELP HIS TROOPS. Lt. Gen. Lev Rokhlin said he decided to run as number three on Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's Our Home is Russia list because working within the political bloc has given him improved access to the government, including the prime minister, Kommersant-Daily reported on 20 September. Rokhlin is famous for leading Russian troops in Chechnya and then rejecting decorations and criticizing those who made profits from trading with Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev. He claimed that his meeting with high-level leaders will help resolve the army's financial problems and argued that the army had made a mistake by not contesting earlier elections. The newspaper commented that Rokhlin's decision to work with Chernomyrdin has hurt his standing among junior and mid-level officers who blame the prime minister for the military's current financial problems. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. MORDOVIYA ADOPTS DRAFT CONSTITUTION. The State Assembly of Mordoviya adopted a new draft of the republic's constitution on 20 September. The new constitution creates the post of president of the republic and guarantees free education and health care to its workers, Radio Mayak reported. The parliament retains the right to remove the president and government with a two-thirds vote. The constitution will be approved at a meeting of a 1,350 member constitutional assembly on 21 September and the same body will elect the new president the next day. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. KEMEROVO EXECUTIVE PROPOSES REVAMPING RUSSIAN FEDERATION. The Kemerovo Oblast Governor Mikhail Kislyuk proposed that all of Russia's republics and regions be turned into guberniya to reduce conflict between the center and the periphery. He suggested that the key figure in each region should be a governor appointed by the president, ITAR-TASS reported 21 September. The governor would appoint the head of administration and have the power to initiate legislation, sign or veto local laws, and propose candidates for the post of local legislature speaker. Kislyuk said he wants to try this proposal in Kemerovo as an experiment. His relationship with Aman Tuleev, the chairman of the oblast's Legislative Assembly, has been extremely adversarial. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. FINAL CAMPAIGN COVERAGE RULES ISSUED. The Central Electoral Commission released the final version of guidelines for state-owned media coverage of the parliamentary campaign, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 September. Between 15 November and 15 December, all officially registered candidates, parties, and blocs will receive 30 minutes of free air time on state-owned television and radio between 7:00 and 10:00 a.m., as well as 30 minutes between 6:00 and 11:00 p.m. Television and radio companies will not be allowed to edit or interrupt campaign programs prepared by the parties. In addition, beginning on 5 November all parties will be guaranteed space for campaign materials in state-run national and regional newspapers. The final version of the commission's rules does not regulate campaign coverage in the privately owned media; earlier proposals floated in August would have prohibited all political advertising on private radio and television. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. MORE ELECTORAL BLOCS ANNOUNCE PLANS. Leaders of My Fatherland, which recently deserted Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin's left-center bloc, confirmed that they will compete independently as "constructive opposition" in the December parliamentary elections, Russian TV reported on 20 September. Col. Gen. Boris Gromov, economist Stanislav Shatalin, and controversial singer Iosif Kobzon will top My Fatherland's party list. On the same day, Anatolii Panfilov, chairman of the ecological movement KEDR (Cedar), predicted that his bloc would win 7-10% of the vote. KEDR's party list includes popular game show host Leonid Yakubovich, Novyi mir editor Sergei Zalygin, astronaut Musa Manarov, and Soldiers' Mothers of Russia leader Lyubov Lymar. In the 1993 elections, KEDR failed to clear the 5% barrier necessary to guarantee Duma representation. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. UNION OF MUSLIMS SEEKS ALLIANCE WITH CONGRESS OF RUSSIAN COMMUNITIES. Mukaddas Bibarsov, leader of the Union of Muslims, told Radio Rossii on 20 September that his union would like to form an electoral alliance with Yurii Skokov's Congress of Russian Communities (KRO). Lt. Gen. (ret.) Aleksandr Lebed is leading the campaign for the KRO, which was founded in 1993 to represent the interests of ethnic Russians living in the near abroad. This year, the KRO helped set up the Union of Peoples of Russia, which appeals to citizens of all ethnicities who support a strong Russian state. Bibarsov's search for allies reflects his group's organizational troubles; though it claims to represent the interests of 20 million Muslims in Russia, the Union of Muslims has failed to recruit some of the country's most prominent Muslim political figures (see OMRI Daily Digest, 7 September 1995). -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIA NOT PREPARED TO JOIN NATO FORCE IN BOSNIA. Russian Ambassador to Belgium Vitalii Churkin told journalists that Russia is not prepared to participate in a proposed NATO peace-maintenance force, Russian and Western agencies reported on 20 September. NATO has announced that it will begin a study on setting up such a force, which would replace the current UN peacekeeping mission in Bosnia within six months of a settlement. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. BOSNIAN SERB REPRESENTATIVE GETS COLD SHOULDER. Backing away from its earlier confrontational rhetoric on the conflict in the former Yugoslavia, the Russian government has played down the visit of the Bosnian Serb "foreign minister," Aleksa Bukha, to Moscow this week, allowing him to meet only with second-level officials and refusing to comment on his request for military assistance. Presidential National Security Adviser Yurii Baturin told ITAR-TASS that Bukha had requested military assistance during their talks on 20 September. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. MILITARY CANNOT PAY ITS UTILITY BILLS. The Russian armed forces simply cannot pay their utility bills, a representative of the Defense Ministry told ITAR-TASS on 19 September. Maj. Gen. Vladimir Osadchii said that the military's 1995 budget allocated 1.3 trillion rubles for this purpose while 5.5 trillion was required. He said that the recent power cut-off to the Plesetsk missile test range was only a fragment of a larger picture. There is a list of users that regional power services are prohibited from cutting off due to non-payment of bills. In July, military facilities were removed from that list. Osadchii warned that with the coming cold weather, the number of military units deprived of power could grow considerably. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. ECONOMICS MINISTER OPTIMISTIC. Russian Economics Minister Yevgenii Yasin told a press conference on 20 September that "We do not expect inflation to accelerate in the autumn [as] there are no factors at all which could push prices up," Western and Russian agencies reported. He rejected the view that prices could repeat the pattern of last year, when inflation leapt from 4.6% in August to 15% in November. However, Yasin revealed several factors which could spark inflation. He said energy prices will be allowed to rise at 70% of the rise in industrial prices; and that the money supply rose 13% in the second quarter of 1995. (In recent years monetary growth has fed through to consumer prices with a six-month lag.) Yasin said he expects industrial production to fall 4% this year compared to a15% fall in 1994. -- Peter Rutland, OMRI, Inc. ALCOHOL REVENUE ELUDES GOVERNMENT. Government revenue from alcohol taxes has fallen five fold since 1990, despite rising consumption, Russian Public TV reported on 20 September. It is estimated that less than 40% of the alcohol consumed is officially reported. The budget loses an estimated 300 billion rubles ($67 million) a year from unregistered imports. (German vodka exports to Russia total $200 million, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 September.) Also, many firms with special tax privileges trade in alcohol. The National Sport Fund, which is exempt from taxes, has bought up 90% of the spirit import licenses. First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais has vowed to eliminate all such tax breaks. -- Peter Rutland, OMRI, Inc. NEW REVENUE SHARING RULES. The Duma Working Group on the Budget on 19 September announced a new set of rules governing revenue sharing between Moscow and federation members, Segodnya reported 20 September. The regions will receive 50% of excise duty on alcohol and 100% of the duty on other goods; 25% of VAT; 22% of profits tax; and 30% of income taxes. Those norms will be fixed for three years. In addition, 15% of the federal budget will be returned to the regions as subsidies. The Finance Ministry is also proposing a new system of wage controls from January 1996, Business-TASS reported on 20 September. Firms with an average wage bill that is 20 times the minimum wage and rises at more than 40% of the minimum wage per month will be fined from 50-100% of the excess. -- Peter Rutland, OMRI, Inc. COMMERCIAL BANK WOES. Banks are trying to woo back customers who withdrew their deposits in the wake of last month's bank payments crisis, Kommersant-Daily reported on 20 September. Inkombank now pays from 14-18% on German mark deposits, while Rossiiskii Kredit pays 56-80% on ruble accounts. Meanwhile, a new problem has arisen for the banks. Izvestiya reported on 20 September. A letter sent to banks by an obscure Central Bank of Russia official stated that the central bank would no longer automatically repay inter-bank loans from the banks' accounts. The Association of Russian Banks complained that this means there is no legal mechanism for banks to recoup unpaid loans and are appealing the decision to the procurator-general. -- Peter Rutland, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA KYRGYZ LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY VOTES NO ON REFERENDUM. On 20 September, the Kyrgyz Legislative Assembly voted by a margin of 30 to three not to hold a referendum on extending President Askar Akaev's term in office, according to Interfax. On 20 August, a petition with more than 1 million signatures was given to representatives of the Kyrgyz parliament calling for the referendum, but Akaev said he would allow the parliament to decide. On 18 September, a group representing four political parties and seven NGOs began a hunger strike in front of the government building to protest the proposed extension. The Assembly of People's Representatives is scheduled to vote on the referendum on 26 September, but legislative Speaker Mukar Cholponbaev said that the other house does not have the power to approve the referendum so the issue is settled, Interfax reported. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc. TAJIK OPPOSITION RADIO SAYS 200 DEAD IN KURGAN-TYUBE. The recent fighting in Kurgan-Tyube between rival units of the Tajik army has claimed over 200 lives, according to a Radio Voice of Free Tajikistan report cited by the BBC. The broadcast said many among the dead were civilians and that the toll is rising as the fighting continued with tanks and armored personnel carriers at least until 19 September. Fighting began on the morning of 17 September when the 1st brigade attempted to arrest leaders in the 11th brigade. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc. KAZAKHSTAN LIFTS CUSTOMS CONTROL ON RUSSIAN BORDER. Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbaev signed a decree to lift customs controls on the border between Kazakhstan and Russia, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 September. The decree stated that only transit cargoes from third countries will be checked at the border from now on. Nazarbaev ratified the agreement on joining a customs union with Russia and Belarus earlier this week, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 September. -- Bhavna Dave, OMRI, Inc. INDIA GRANTS $10 MILLION CREDIT LINE TO TURKMENISTAN. Following talks between visiting Indian Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao and Turkmen leader Saparmurad Niyazov, India opened a second credit line worth $10 million, to be used for equipment for developing small industrial enterprises in Turkmenistan, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 September. India offered $5.5 million credits in March 1995 to build a pharmaceutical plant in Turkmenistan. Turkmen Oil and Gas Minister Aman Esenov proposed that the $3.2 billion pipeline between Turkmenistan and Iran could be extended to Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India. Turkmen Foreign Minister Boris Shikhmuradov told PTI that Turkmenistan will sell oil and gas to India if a tripartite agreement between the three countries is reached. Rao is on a five-day visit to Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan--his second tour of the region since 1993. -- Bhavna Dave, OMRI, Inc. GREEK-GEORGIAN JOINT VENTURE. The state-owned Greek oil refining company EKO and the Georgian state oil company signed an agreement in Tbilisi on 15 September to create a joint venture to set up a network of gas stations in Georgia and to market EKO products there, Western agencies reported on 20 September. The new company--the first Greek-Georgian joint venture--plans to extend operations to the fields of natural gas and aviation fuel. At present, the mafia has a virtual monopoly on gasoline distribution in Georgia. -- Liz Fuller, 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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