|It is easier to love humanity than to love one's neighbor. - Eric Hoffer|
No. 185, Part I, 22 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 YELTSIN DECREE ON LOCAL ELECTIONS UPSETS REGIONAL LEADERS. The head of the Novosibirsk Oblast administration, Ivan Indinok, said he will insist that elections for oblast governor be held on 17 December 1995, when the Duma elections are scheduled. In a 17 September decree, President Boris Yeltsin ordered gubernatorial elections for December 1996, with earlier elections to be held only in Moscow, Novgorod, and Omsk oblasts. Indinok said that all parts of the Russian Federation should have the same election rights, Segodnya reported on 21 September. Recently-elected Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Eduard Rossel said holding the elections at various times will disrupt the work of the next Federation Council, which will consist of a mixture of elected and appointed regional leaders. The procedure for choosing members to the Federation Council is still being debated. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. OFFICIAL CONCERNED ABOUT LARGE NUMBER OF PARTIES. There are almost 50 parties and 15,000 candidates competing for the 450 seats of the State Duma, Nikolai Ryabov, the chairman of the Central Electoral Commission, announced on 21 September. He criticized the Justice Ministry for registering too many parties and allowing groups of rock-climbers and beekeepers to enter the race, ITAR-TASS reported. Most of those parties will probably not make it on to the ballot because of the requirement to collect 200,000 signatures. On 20 September, Interfax reported that the Communist Party had been the first to submit its list of 230,000 signatures. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. JOURNALIST TO SUE DUMA. The 1970s dissident and emigre journalist Kronid Lyubarskii, currently deputy editor of Novoe vremya, is suing the State Duma, Ogonek (no. 38) reported. At issue is the 21 July report released by Stanislav Govorukhin's Duma commission on Chechnya, which accused a number of journalists of taking bribes from Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev. Lyubarskii was second on Govorukhin's list of "collaborationists." He is asking the Duma to retract the report, apologize for slander, and pay him a symbolic 1 ruble in compensatory damages. Four out of 10 members of the Duma commission refused to sign Govorukhin's blistering report (see OMRI Daily Digest, 24 July 1995). -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. IZVESTIYA ON SOLZHENITSYN. An article published in Izvestiya on 20 September described Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's weekly, prime-time talk show on Russian Public TV as unsuccessful "political theater." It accused him of romanticizing the past and ridiculed his frequent claims that only the 19th-century institution of the zemstvo, or local council, can save Russia (see OMRI Daily Digest, 8 September 1995). Since his return to Russia in 1994, Solzhenitsyn has attracted much publicity and toured the country several times, but his high profile has not translated into significant influence on government policy. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. NATO PROPOSES GERRYMANDERING TO SOLVE FLANKS PROBLEM. The tentative NATO-Russian agreement to assuage Russian concerns over the restrictive "flanks" limitations of the CFE treaty involves moving some oblasts from one military district to another, RFE/RL reported on 21 September. Since the flanks limits apply only to the Leningrad and North Caucasus military districts, making those districts smaller would allow the Russians to allocate some of the weapons in them to other, unrestricted, districts. Meanwhile, on 21 September, Kommersant-Daily suggested that NATO proposed the CFE deal to Russia as "a consolation prize" in return for the now inevitable eastward expansion of NATO. While welcoming the CFE offer, the Russians made it clear they are still concerned over possible NATO eastward expansion. Reuters quoted Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev as saying that Russia "cannot accept any deals in exchange for the expansion of NATO. We oppose NATO expansion and there can be no horse-trading on this question." -- Doug Clarke and Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIA HAILS END TO NATO AIR STRIKES. Presidential Yeltsin's envoy to former Yugoslavia, Aleksandr Zotov, on 21 September guardedly approved the NATO decision to suspend air strikes against Bosnian Serb positions, saying it allowed the revival of peace talks, Russian and Western agencies reported. Zotov also demanded that future air strikes be approved by the UN Security Council, not merely agreed upon by the UN Secretariat and NATO. Meanwhile, at the UN, Russian ambassador Sergei Lavrov expressed satisfaction that the Security Council had "finally" passed a Russian-sponsored resolution condemning Croatia and the Bosnian Muslims for recent offensive actions in Western Bosnia. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. CHINESE FOREIGN MINISTER TO MEET YELTSIN. In another sign of improving relations between Russia and China, Chinese Foreign Minister Qian Qichen arrived in Moscow on 21 September for meetings with Russian officials, Russian and Western agencies reported. Qichen will fly to Sochi on 22 September to meet with vacationing President Yeltsin and discuss his planned November visit to Beijing. Further underlining the importance of good relations with China at a time of Russian isolation in the West, ITAR-TASS reported that the Russian Defense Ministry is planning to deepen military cooperation with China, while Federal Border Service Director Andrei Nikolaev praised Chinese authorities for aggressively combating smuggling, poaching, and illegal emigration under the terms of a border policing agreement signed last month. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. POWER CUT-OFF NEARLY CAUSES NUCLEAR SUBMARINE DISASTER. The reactor in an obsolete nuclear-powered submarine in the Northern Fleet began to overheat after the local power authorities cut off electrical power to the submarine base and the back-up local system failed to function properly, ITAR-TASS reported on 21 September. A potentially disastrous reactor meltdown was only avoided when the base authorities were able to convince the power authorities to restore power to the base. The report said that the Defense Ministry owed power suppliers more than 20 billion rubles. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. MAKHACHKALA HOSTAGES FREED. Security forces stormed a hijacked bus in the capital of Dagestan on 22 September, freeing all eighteen remaining hostages and arresting the two hijackers, Russian and Western agencies reported. One woman hostage was released shortly after the gunmen, a Russian and an Avar from Dagestan, seized the bus the previous evening. Several hostages sustained minor injuries during the assault, carried out by officers from the Interior Ministry and the Federal Security Service's newly established Anti-terrorism Center. The hijacking was financially motivated. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. TRADE UNIONS PLAN FALL OFFENSIVE. The Federation of Independent Trade Unions is planning a series of actions in the fall to protest wage arrears, according to its chairman, Mikhail Shmakov. In an interview with Obshchaya gazeta (no. 38), Shmakov said wage arrears now total 8 trillion rubles ($1.8 billion)--a situation he blames primarily on the government's failure to pay for state orders. Asked about the FNPR's electoral pact with Vladimir Shcherbakov's Industrialists, Shmakov said both employers and employees have similar economic interests at present but added that those interests are bound to diverge once wage levels become an issue. The FNPR organized days of action last spring and fall but succeeded only in partially alleviating the payments problems in certain sectors. The first group to take action this time will be teachers, who have called a one-day strike for 26 September. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. HARD CURRENCY DEALING NO LONGER CAPITAL OFFENCE. Russia has now dropped the death penalty for illegal trading in hard currency, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 September. Article 88 of the Criminal Code, which allowed the death penalty for such dealing, has been replaced by Article 162, which stipulates a maximum one-year suspended jail sentence. Around 1,000 people were prosecuted for illegal dealing in hard currency and precious stones in 1995. Under current law all sales of goods should be in rubles. -- Peter Rutland, OMRI, Inc. BANKS FACE DIFFICULTIES. More than 300 Russian banks face liquidity problems for reasons not linked to the August interbank market crisis, Olga Prokofeva, director of the Central Bank of Russia Supervision Department, told Segodnya on 21 September. Prokofeva blamed the banks' cash flow problems on their lending policies. Central bank figures show that 83 commercial bank licenses have been revoked so far this year. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. SAKHALIN CUTS GAS SUPPLY TO KOMSOMOLSK. The supply of Sakhalin gas to the Russia Far East city of Komsomolsk-na-Amure has been stopped, the local power station has been closed, and 49 enterprises in the Komsomolsk power-consuming area have been denied electricity, Segodnya reported on 21 September. The Komsolmolsk TV station, which also broadcasts to Sakhalin, was forced to shut down. According to a Sakhalin city administration report, gas supplies will not resume until the Amur Krai pays for the fuel in full. Debts are more than 75 billion rubles ($16.8 million). -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. KamAZ TRUCK PLANT SCALES BACK OPERATIONS. The KamAZ Joint-Stock Company, Russia's largest truck producer, is introducing a three-day work schedule, Segodnya reported on 21 September. Lack of funds to buy truck components from subcontractors and their refusal to supply products on credit, was a decisive factor in the move. The Tatarstan-based company, which originally aimed to produce 3,000 heavy trucks in 1995, will now produce 2,700. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA PROBLEMS IN AZERBAIJANI OIL SECTOR. Oil workers in Azerbaijan may lift their strike, begun a month ago to protest delays in wage payments, Interfax reported on 21 September. Economy Minister Samad Sadykov, speaking to a meeting at the State Oil Company (SOCAR), promised to take steps to force companies to pay outstanding oil bills, which total $245 million. President Heidar Aliev pledged to root out corruption in the energy industry, Interfax reported. "We have information that at the western borders of Azerbaijan, part of the oil and gas supplies are being resold to Armenia via Georgia," he said. -- Peter Rutland, OMRI, Inc. ARAL SEA CONFERENCE IN NUKUS CONCLUDES. The three-day conference on regional solutions to the Aral Sea crisis ended on 20 September with the signing of the Nukus Declaration in which the five leaders pledged to cooperate in areas of irrigation and environmental protection strategies to save what remains of the sea, Interfax reported on 20 September. Agencies and countries, including Russia, have pledged $200 million. Four of the five Central Asian presidents attended the conference, with only Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov absent due to his recent meeting with Indian Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao. -- Roger Kangas, OMRI, Inc. TATAR DELEGATION FAILS TO NEGOTIATE RELEASE OF RUSSIAN JET CREW. The seven-week ordeal of an Aerostan IL-76 commercial jet crew appears to have no end in sight. The seven-member crew has been held hostage by members of the Afghan Islamic opposition movement, Taliban, since its plane, carrying ammunition for the government in Kabul, was forced down on 3 August (see OMRI Daily Digest, 11 August 1995). A delegation led by presidential aide Timur Akulov of Tatarstan failed to even meet with the supreme council of the Afghan Islamic opposition movement Taliban, Interfax reported on 21 September. A report that Taliban is apparently responsible for a second hijacking has complicated matters. This time, a Boeing 727 belonging to the Ariana Afghan Airlines was taken as it was completing its Dubai-Jalalabad route. A 21 September ITAR-TASS report confirmed that the plane was forced to land in Qandahar, where the Russian crew is still being held. -- Roger Kangas, OMRI, Inc. KAZAKHSTAN, UKRAINE SIGN COOPERATION AGREEMENTS . . . Kazakhstan and Ukraine signed several cooperation agreements following talks between Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbaev and visiting Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, Russian and Kazakhstani media reported on 21 September. The agreements concerned cooperation in science and technology, military training, education, and pensions. Nazarbaev told ITAR-TASS on 21 September that a joint commission headed by the first deputy prime ministers of both states will soon meet to promote a considerable increase in the volume of trade and resolve transportation problems between the two countries. Ukraine plans to purchase 5 million tons of coal from Kazakhstan. -- Bhavna Dave, OMRI, Inc. . . . BUT CRITICIZE CUSTOMS UNION WITH RUSSIA. At a meeting with businessmen in Almaty, President Kuchma said the customs union between Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan fails to meet Ukraine's national interests and only strengthens Russian dominance in the region, ITAR- TASS reported on 21 September. President Nazarbaev assured Kuchma that Kazakhstan's participation in the union will not harm its ties with other countries, especially since, "like other CIS structures, the customs union has so far failed to work properly," Kazakhstani Radio reported the same day. However, an official of Russia's State Customs Committee told Interfax on 21 September that Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan are at "different stages" in implementing the customs union agreement, signed in January 1995, with Russia and Belarus having achieved a higher level of cooperation. Kazakhstan recently issued a decree lifting customs controls on its border with Russia. -- 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 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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