|There is no love sincerer than the love of food. - George Bernard Shaw|
No. 186, Part I, 25 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 SHAKHRAI CONDEMNS PARTY-LIST ELECTORAL SYSTEM. Appearing at the second congress of his Party of Russian Unity and Concord (PRES), Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Shakhrai said the party's first goal will be to dissolve the next Duma and annul what he called the "Yabloko-Communist" electoral law under which its members are to be chosen, Russian Public TV reported on 22 September. Under the law on parliamentary elections, the next Duma will be composed of 225 deputies elected from single-member constituencies and 225 chosen from party lists of groups that win at least 5% of the vote nationwide. Segodnya reported the next day that Shakhrai believes only a few "agrarian-communist or radical nationalist" parties will clear the 5% barrier, and those parties would then be allocated all 225 party-list seats. Shakhrai told Ekho Moskvy that most PRES candidates will compete in single-member constituencies. In 1993, PRES barely received the 5% of votes necessary to win Duma representation from party lists. The PRES congress formally approved the decision to leave Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's bloc Our Home Is Russia. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. ROSSEL'S "TRANSFORMATION" BLOC GAINS STRENGTH. The electoral bloc Transformation of the Fatherland (Preobrazhenie otechestva) held its founding congress in Yekaterinburg, Russian media reported on 23 September. According to NTV, the movement's founder, Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Eduard Rossel, will top the Transformation party list. The bloc will lobby for the interests of regions, including changes in tax policy and a stronger system of local self-government, Ekho Moskvy reported. Transformation has branches in 52 of Russia's 89 federation subjects and plans to nominate candidates in 81 regions. Federation Council Speaker Vladimir Shumeiko's decision to appear at the congress reflects the movement's growing importance. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. YELTSIN RETURNS LAWS TO DUMA. President Boris Yeltsin has sent back 10 draft laws to the Duma without reading them, ITAR-TASS reported on 22 September. They include the bill on combating organized crime and the new criminal code, passed by the Duma in July. In a letter to Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin, Yeltsin said that the original drafts are with the Federation Council, which has not yet considered them, and that he is not authorized to sign copies. Under the constitution, the Federation Council is supposed to forward bills passed by the Duma to the president within 14 days even if it does not reject or approve them. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. "OCTOBER REVOLUTION" AT RUSSIAN PUBLIC TELEVISION . . . In what the 23 September Kommersant-Daily described as an "October Revolution at Channel 1," Russia's largest network Russian Public TV (ORT) substantially revised its programming schedule, to take effect on 1 October. The most controversial change was the decision to drop Sergei Dorenko's news magazine "Versii" (Versions), ostensibly for financial reasons. However, Irena Lesnitskaya, director of the television company that produces "Versii," called the decision "pure politics" since producers offered the show to ORT practically for free, Ekho Moskvy reported on 22 September. According to Dorenko, ORT executives disliked his political independence. In recent months, Dorenko aired fragments of an interview with Chechen fighter Shamil Basaev, speculated on the health of Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, and investigated acting Procurator-General Aleksei Ilyushenko. The independent network NTV agreed to broadcast "Versii," beginning on 2 October. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's weekly talk show was also dropped from the new ORT schedule, AFP reported on 24 September. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. . . . AS THE NETWORK IS REPRIMANDED FOR COVERAGE OF DUMA BRAWL. The President's Chamber on Information Disputes reprimanded Russian Public TV (ORT) for "incomplete and inaccurate" reporting of the 9 September brawl in the State Duma, ITAR-TASS reported on 22 September. The brawl started when right-wing National-Republican Party leader Nikolai Lysenko attacked Gleb Yakunin, a pro-reform deputy. Duma deputy Vladimir Lysenko, chairman of the centrist Republican Party, brought the complaint because Channel 1 news reported only that "deputy Lysenko" started the fistfight. He charged that the network's failure to specify which Lysenko was involved had damaged his own reputation. The chamber ordered ORT to inform viewers explicitly that Nikolai Lysenko instigated the brawl; and recommended that television companies show photographs of political figures with common surnames to avoid confusion. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. NEW PRESIDENT SELECTED IN MORDOVIYA. The Constitutional Assembly in Mordoviya chose State Assembly Chairman Nikolai Merkushkin to be the republic's president until elections for the post are held, NTV reported on 22 September. Merkushkin was head of the Mordoviya Property Fund until his selection as chair of Mordoviya's legislature in February 1995. He was the only candidate considered for the post of President, which was created anew in the draft constitution adopted on 20 September. Vasilii Guslyanikov, a supporter of Democratic Russia, had been elected president in December 1991, but the conservative legislature abolished his position in April 1993. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. CHECHEN ROUNDUP. Russian-Chechen talks on the implementation of a July disarmament agreement resumed in Grozny on 22 September, Russian media reported. Also on 22 September, President Yeltsin issued an appeal to the people of Chechnya reaffirming Russia's commitment to finding a peaceful resolution to the crisis. Representatives of Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev boycotted a round table discussion on 23 September, at which various Chechen political groupings unveiled their election programs. The head of the pro-Moscow Chechen provisional government, Salambek Khadzhiev, acknowledged that Dudaev enjoys substantial support among the Chechen population; participants then invited Dudaev representatives to attend the next round table meeting on 30 September, Interfax reported on 24 September. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. BUDENNOVSK POLICE WANT NEW INQUIRY INTO HOSTAGE CRISIS. Police in Budennovsk have sent an open letter to Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov complaining that they have been made the scapegoats for the June hostage crisis and calling for a new investigation into the events surrounding the tragedy. According to ITAR-TASS on 23 September, the letter notes that 18 local police officers were killed in the fighting with Shamil Basaev's forces and that the performance of the local police was praised by senior ministry officials at the time. The police consider it unjust that the Budennovsk police chief was fired, while "the irresponsible officials who let the gang [out of Chechnya] continue to serve in six interior departments in Dagestan and two departments in Stavropol Krai." -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. KOZYREV, YELTSIN DISCUSS FOREIGN POLICY. Before departing for the 50th session of the UN General Assembly, Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev discussed Russia's foreign policy strategy with President Yeltsin, Russian agencies reported on 24 September. Kozyrev was directed to "raise the level of professionalism" at the Foreign Ministry and more effectively implement Presidential foreign policy directives. Kozyrev, recently under heavy criticism, complained in a 22 September speech that his ministry's effectiveness has been undermined by its fiscal problems, with "monstrous" salaries causing many diplomats to leave for the private sector. He quipped that at the current rate, "soon there will be no one left to criticize" at the ministry. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. YELTSIN MEETS CHINESE FOREIGN MINISTER. Chinese Foreign Minister Qian Qichen met with President Yeltsin in Sochi on 22 September, Russian and Western agencies reported. Quichen said he and Yeltsin "expressed similar opinions" on every issue they discussed. At a joint news conference, Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev said during Yeltsin's upcoming visit to China a major political accord would be signed but denied that China and Russia planned to form a new political-military bloc. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIAN-U.S. EXERCISE PREPARATIONS SUSPENDED. Russia has suspended "for an indefinite period" preparations for a joint peacekeeping exercise with the U.S. scheduled to be held in Kansas next month, Interfax reported on 22 September. Russia had previously balked at the exercise because of the renewed NATO bombing of the Bosnian Serbs. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. GOVERNMENT BANS SHUT DOWN OF POWER TO MILITARY. Stung by a recent rash of embarrassing and dangerous incidents where local power authorities cut off power to several military facilities, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin on 23 September signed a resolution banning such arbitrary steps, ITAR-TASS reported. The government called such actions "irresponsible and detrimental to national security." The military is heavily in debt to the power supplies and the latest order rescinded a previous regulation that allowed the energy companies to cut off power to military bases and defense plants after their accounts were 30 days in arrears. On 22 September, the agency also revealed that the Northern Fleet had sent armed soldiers to force the engineer on duty at a Kola power plant to restore power to a Russian submarine base, thus averting a potential nuclear disaster. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. TENSION BUILDING IN KUZBASS. A wildcat strike broke out at the Usinsk pit in Mezhdurechensk in the Kuzbass on 21 September, Interfax reported. Aleksandr Sergeev, chairman of the Independent Miners' Union, said the miners are demanding their wages which have not been paid since June, and that other pits in the town and in Prokopevsk are ready to join the protest. Sergeev noted that in 1989, the Russian miners' strike began in Mezhdurechensk. The Mezhdurechensk city strike committee has declared an official strike from 12 October to protest wage arrears. Meanwhile, coal workers in Amur and Krasnoyarsk oblasts announced their intention to stop coal deliveries to Primorsk Krai in a gesture of solidarity with miners in that region, who are threatening to strike. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. GOVERNMENT RULES OUT SHORT-TERM FOREIGN LOANS. When seeking to attract foreign funds under government guarantees, the Russian government will rule out short-term foreign loans and opt for medium-term loans, Segodnya reported on 23 September. According to Mikhail Kasyanov, head of the Finance Ministry's foreign credit and foreign debt department, Russia will look for loans with a minimum term of eight years order to avoid overburdening Russia's debt repayment schedule. Kasyanov said that the government set a limit of $9.6 billion in foreign loans for 1996. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. FRADKOV SUGGESTS HIGHER FOOD IMPORT TARIFFS. Russia needs to raise import tariffs on agricultural products in order to protect domestic producers, First Deputy Minister for Foreign Economic Relations Mikhail Fradkov said in a government meeting on 22 September, Interfax reported. Fradkov said that despite the 1 July hike in food import duties, Russia's average tariff, at 16%, is lower than the 21% average tariff of European Union countries. Earlier this year, Foreign Economic Relations Minister Oleg Davydov criticized the government's decision to raise food import duties, arguing that such a move would push up food prices and complicate negotiations on Russia joining the World Trade Organization. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. ZAVERYUKHA OPPOSES SALE OF FARMLAND. Russia should refrain from selling land plots in rural regions, Aleksandr Zaveryukha, the deputy prime minister responsible for agriculture, said on 22 September, Interfax reported. Speaking in Gorodishche while on a tour of the Volgograd Oblast, the minister said long-term land leasing is the most acceptable form of rural land ownership. Zaveryukha, who appears to disagree with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, who on 14 September called for a referendum on the Land Code to speed private land ownership. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA AKAEV CALLS FOR PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS IN DECEMBER. In a speech to parliament on 21 September, Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev called for presidential elections to be held in December of this year, according to Western sources and Interfax. Akaev's move comes after the 35-member legislative assembly voted against holding a referendum that would have extended his term in office until the year 2001. Those opposed to the move point out that it leaves only two and a half months to gather the necessary 50,000 signatures to register and run a campaign. Twenty-three members of the legislative assembly voted in favor of holding the election. Akaev was elected to a five-year term in an uncontested vote in October 1991. However, in a 23 September interview on Radio Mayak, Akaev justified holding an election this year by referring to the fact that he was originally elected by the Supreme Soviet in 1990. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc. CIS KYRGYZSTAN, UZBEKISTAN, AND TAJIKISTAN READY TO JOIN CUSTOMS UNION. At a meeting of the presidium of the CIS Interstate Economic Committee, Kyrgyz, Uzbek, and Tajik officials expressed their desire to join the customs union that comprises Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan, Interfax reported on 22 September. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Aleksei Bolshakov, chairman of the CIS presidium, told Interfax that other CIS members may join the customs union soon. Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbaev recently told visiting Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma that the customs union will not deter Kazakhstan from expanding trade with other CIS countries that have not joined it (see OMRI Daily Digest, 22 September 1995). -- 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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