|A man seldom thinks with more earnestness of anything than he does of his dinner. - Samuel Johnson|
No. 187, Part I, 26 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 MILITARY TO FIELD OWN CANDIDATES FOR DUMA. Arguing that the current State Duma has not done enough to help the military, Defense Minister Pavel Grachev announced that the army will nominate 123 servicemen, 23 of them generals, to run for parliament in single-member constituencies, Russian and Western agencies reported on 25 September. Grachev particularly criticized Duma Defense Committee Chairman Sergei Yushenkov, an outspoken critic of the military campaign in Chechnya. Article 97 of the Constitution prohibits state employees from simultaneously serving in parliament, but according to a legal commentary published last year, military officers and other civil servants could go on leave while serving in parliament and be guaranteed the right to return to their old jobs after their Duma terms expire. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. DEPUTY TAKES CENTRAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION TO COURT. Duma deputy Vladimir Lepekhin, chairman of the Union of Student Councils, has asked the Supreme Court to force the Central Electoral Commission to revoke the registration of several electoral blocs, Ekho Moskvy reported on 25 September. Lepekhin argues that the blocs were illegally registered, since they do not have their own charters as required by the law on public associations. But Nikolai Ryabov, the commission's chairman, told ITAR-TASS that electoral blocs are only temporary associations; consequently, the law on parliamentary elections does not require that they have charters. The Supreme Court will hear the case on 27 September. According to Russian TV, the case could affect the status of some prominent electoral blocs, including Yegor Gaidar's United Democrats, Viktor Anpilov's Workers' Russia, and the recently declared bloc of Stanislav Govorukhin. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. CONGRESS OF NATIONAL ASSOCIATIONS JOINS GAIDAR'S BLOC. The Congress of National Associations of Russia, which unites more than 20 groups representing ethnic minorities living in Russia, joined the electoral bloc United Democrats on the grounds that "No one is more interested in democracy in Russian society than national minorities," Russian TV reported on 25 September. Yegor Gaidar's Russia's Democratic Choice is the most prominent party associated with the United Democrats bloc. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. FORMER PROCURATOR GENERAL TO RUN FOR DUMA. Valentin Stepankov, Russia's procurator general from April 1991 until he was sacked in October 1993, is collecting signatures to run for the Duma in a single-member constituency in Perm Oblast, ITAR-TASS reported on 25 September. Stepankov, who says he does not belong to any political party, was appointed deputy governor of Perm two months ago. He made his name as a fighter against corruption and an opponent of the August 1991 coup but opposed President Yeltsin's dismissal of parliament in September 1993. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc. PRAGMATISM, SKEPTICISM DOMINATE POPULAR VALUES. According to sociologist Boris Grushin, speaking on Radio Rossii on 25 September, popular attitudes towards democracy are more negative than in 1993. Only 21% of people surveyed in polls by his organization, Vox Populi, have a positive attitude towards democracy, while 55% voiced a negative evaluation. Two-thirds of respondents consider that Russia is not headed in the right direction. At the same time, those explicitly favoring rule by an "iron hand" are in a minority--37% in favor and 49% against. Grushin argues that most people are pragmatic and suspicious of any given ideology. National-patriotic values are supported by 29%, and 49% oppose them. While 38% would support a return to socialism, 43% would not. -- Peter Rutland, OMRI, Inc. POLITICAL LEADERS MEET ORTHODOX GROUP. Lt. Gen. (ret.) Aleksandr Lebed and Sergei Glazev, leaders of the Congress of Russian Communities, participated in a conference entitled "The Moral Foundations for State Construction," which was attended by Orthodox priests. The meeting was the first public act organized by the Orthodox Political Assembly, a club set up to bring together priests and politicians who support the church's policies, NTV and Russian Public TV reported on 25 September. Glazev said that almost all political parties today want to benefit from the authority of the church. The Russian Muslim Union has already attracted press coverage, but this is the first serious attempt by an Orthodox group to win support. The Orthodox Church's leadership has already announced that the church will not support any political parties or candidates. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. BURYATIYA TO HOLD LOCAL ELECTIONS THIS YEAR DESPITE YELTSIN DECREE. Buryatiya will hold municipal elections on the same day as the Duma elections in December, Mikhail Semenov, the speaker of the republic's parliament announced on 25 September. He said the decision does not contradict President Boris Yeltsin's 17 September decree postponing local elections until after the presidential elections in June 1996 because the president's administration did not object to elections that had been prepared before the decree was issued, ITAR-TASS reported on 25 September. Buryatiya's parliament had adopted a decision to hold the elections on 8 September. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. CHECHEN DISARMAMENT SCHEDULE TO BE REVISED. The joint Russian-Chechen special observer commission charged with monitoring compliance with the 30 July agreement on disarmament decided on 25 September to extend the deadline that expired on 24 September for the surrender of arms by units loyal to Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev, Russian media reported. The head of the Russian delegation to the peace talks, Vyacheslav Mikhailov, toured several Chechen raions together with former Chechen-Ingush Supreme Soviet Chairman Doku Zavgaev and held talks on disarmament and the prospects for holding new elections with several of Dudaev's field commanders, according to Russian TV. Also on 25 September, Chechen fighters congregated in the town of Sernovodsk on the border with Ingushetiya in anticipation of an attack by Russian federal troops, according to Interfax. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. VOLSKII ON CHECHNYA. In an interview with Russian Public TV on 25 September, the deputy chairman of the Russian delegation to the Chechen peace talks, Arkadii Volskii, disclosed that an opinion poll conducted in five Chechen raions had established that the most popular political figure among respondents is former Chechen-Ingush Supreme Soviet Chairman Doku Zavgaev, followed by former Russian parliament Speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov, with Dzhokhar Dudaev in third place. Volskii also hypothesized that the 20 September attempt to kill presidential representative Oleg Lobov may have been perpetrated by shadowy Russian financial groups engaged in a deal with local political figures to misappropriate government funds intended for reconstruction in Chechnya. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. DAGESTAN WANTS TO RETURN CHECHEN REFUGEES. Dagestani Minister for Nationalities Magomedsadykh Gysaev expressed his concern over the 70,000 Chechen refugees currently present in the republic, Izvestiya reported on 26 September. Almost 150,000 Chechen refugees fled to Dagestan earlier this year during the war in Chechnya. More than half of them have already left Dagestan under increasing pressure from the local administration. Dagestan's leadership complains of a lack of funds, and is blaming the refugees for an increase in the crime rate. Dagestan is also concerned about Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev's territorial claims on the republic. -- Constantine Dmitriev, OMRI, Inc. GRACHEV PROPOSES JOINT COMMAND FOR BOSNIA FORCE. Defense Minister Pavel Grachev said on 25 September that Russia will propose the establishment of a joint NATO-Russian peace implementation force in Bosnia, Russian and Western agencies reported. Grachev said President Yeltsin will present the proposal during his planned October trip to UN headquarters. He ruled out Russian participation in any joint force commanded exclusively by NATO. The minister also reiterated categorical Russian opposition to the eastward expansion of NATO, emphasizing that if the Baltic states join NATO, Russia will be forced to take countermeasures. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc. TEACHERS PROTEST FALL IN LIVING STANDARDS. About half a million teachers across Russia--15% of all education sector employees--are taking part in a one-day protest today against low pay and wage arrears, ITAR-TASS reported on 26 September. Teachers in some areas have canceled classes and are holding meetings and rallies, but schools in Moscow, where teachers are relatively well paid, are operating normally. Educational establishments are currently owed 350 billion rubles ($79 million) by the state; and in some schools the academic year has yet to begin because of a lack of money to pay for electricity and water supplies or repair buildings. In August, Yeltsin decreed a 50% increase in teachers' salaries from September and a further rise in November. On 23 September, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin ordered the government to release 253 billion rubles to cover overdue wages. Teachers earn an average of 314,000 rubles ($70) a month, Interfax reported on 21 September. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. BRYANSK OFFICIALS WARN OF POSSIBLE "SOCIAL EXPLOSION." Local government and union officials in southwestern raions of Bryansk Oblast, affected by radiation from Chornobyl, have sent a telegram to the Russian president, government, and parliament, warning of the danger of a "social explosion" if arrears in compensation payments totaling 63 billion rubles ($14 million) are not paid. According to ITAR-TASS on 22 September, the situation is made worse by high levels of unemployment and arrears in wages and pensions in the area. A local union leader said that residents do not have the means to buy environmentally "clean" produce and are being forced to consume locally grown fruit and vegetables contaminated by radiation. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. SHARES-FOR-LOANS PLAN MOVES FORWARD. Russia plans to raise 3 trillion rubles ($667 million) for government coffers by tendering state-owned shares in 29 companies to banks in exchange for loans, State Property Committee (GKI) acting Chairman Alfred Kokh announced on 25 September, Russian and Western agencies reported. The list includes top oil companies such as Lukoil, Yukos and Surgutneftegaz, Norilsk Nickel, the Far Eastern Shipping Company, and Bratsk Timber Complex. President Yeltsin signed a decree three weeks ago under which domestic and foreign banks can bid for the right to hold state-owned shares in leading companies in trust in return for loans to the government. First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais expressed confidence that the scheme could attract major foreign investments, as well as reverse some of the country's recent capital flight. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. FINANCE MINISTRY CLOSE TO AGREEMENT WITH LONDON CLUB. Russia and the London Club are close to an overall agreement on the rescheduling of debt inherited from the Soviet Union, Interfax reported on 25 September. The head of the Finance Ministry's external debt department, Mikhail Kassianov, said negotiations are "very advanced" and the club, which brings together 600 private banks, is believed to be ready to accept Russia's proposal to reschedule payments over "at least 25 years." Russia owes nearly $25 billion to members of the club. Kassianov said Russia's 1996 draft budget allocates $8.5 billion to service the debt, of which $5.2 billion covers interest payments. The Finance Ministry calculates that debts owed by Russia to private and state creditors will reach nearly $124 billion by 1 January 1997. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA GEORGIA INTRODUCES NEW CURRENCY. The new Georgian currency, the lari, was introduced into circulation on 25 September to replace the coupons in circulation since 1993, Interfax reported the same day. National Bank Vice President Givi Dzhigauri predicted that exchange rates will swiftly stabilize. In an attempt to expedite monetary reform, stiffer penalties have been introduced for violating currency exchange regulations. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. RESHUFFLE IN NAZARBAEV GOVERNMENT? Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbaev has apparently confirmed rumors that a major government reshuffle is imminent. At a government meeting on 22 September, Nazarbaev said the immediate future will be "a period of constitutional reforms . . . [and] . . . there will be personnel reshuffles," Kazakhstani TV reported the same day. He criticized the lack of coordination in the activities of economic ministries, government, foreign departments, and the national bank, accusing the latter of "becoming a state within a state." Addressing the same meeting, Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin said he would submit proposals on changes in the government to Nazarbaev "in the near future." -- Bhavna Dave, OMRI, Inc. KAZAKHSTAN TO FIGHT CRIME, CORRUPTION. Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbaev declared that the fight against growing corruption and organized crime is a top priority for the republic, ITAR-TASS reported on 26 September. At a meeting with the Committee for Combating Crime and Corruption, Nazarbaev said there has been a 17% increase in the number of serious crimes, including dozens of contract murders, committed during the first half of this year. He said that the first six months of the anti-crime drive, launched in March 1995, has resulted only in "taming street hooligans" and has not prevented major economic crimes and corruption among high-ranking officials. However, more than 3,000 police officials have already been punished for various offenses in the first half of this year. -- Vyacheslav Kozlov, 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 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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