|Every custom was once an eccentricity; every idea was once an absurdity. - Holbrook Jackson|
No. 190, Part I, 29 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'S INNER CIRCLE JEALOUS OVER CHERNOMYRDIN'S NEW VISIBILITY. In its 28 September issue, Obshchaya gazeta reported that President Boris Yeltsin's advisers are plotting to limit the increasing prominence of Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. Part of the campaign against him, the newspaper argued, is Federation Council Vladimir Shumeiko's recent criticism of Our Home is Russia and his support for Sverdlovsk Governor Eduard Rossel's Transformation of the Fatherland bloc, which reportedly was instigated by Yeltsin. Yeltsin's staff sees Rossel's movement as a possible counterweight to Chernomyrdin's bloc following the collapse of Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin's left-center bloc. Congress of Russian Communities leader Yurii Skokov denied rumors that he had discussed the possibility of becoming prime minister with the president, ITAR-TASS reported. Skokov is often cited in press reports as a possible replacement for Chernomyrdin. -- Robert Orttung CENTRAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION CLARIFIES MILITARY'S ROLE IN CAMPAIGN. Those currently serving in the military have a constitutional right to run for the Duma, the Central Electoral Commission declared on 28 September. However, the law "On Defense" prohibits any political agitation within military units or institutions, ITAR-TASS reported. During their free time and off the military base, members of the military may participate in campaign activities. Defense Minister Pavel announced earlier this week that the army will nominate 123 servicemen in single-member districts. -- Robert Orttung POLL SHOWS THAT MANY DOUBT INTEGRITY OF ELECTIONS. A July poll showed that 56% of respondents believe that some election rigging took place in the 1993 parliamentary elections and constitutional referendum and that 48% believe that it will occur again in the December elections. The Washington-based International Foundation for Electoral Systems, American Viewpoint, and the Moscow Institute for Comparative Social Research conducted the poll and its results were released on 28 September. IFES's Moscow representative Michael Caputo attributed the high level of skepticism to the voters' low level of knowledge about the elections, ITAR-TASS reported. The poll found that only 32% are interested in politics, but that 74% claim they will participate in the elections. -- Robert Orttung COMMUNISTS BLAST YELTSIN FOREIGN POLICY. In a sign that foreign policy issues will play a major role in the Duma election campaign, the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF), issued a statement on 28 September blasting the current government for a failed foreign policy. The statement blamed the government for "the loss of great power status," and transforming Russia "into a second-rate country." Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin, recently returned from the rump Yugoslavia, called for an end to the "senseless" UN sanctions against that country and claimed they had cost Russia $50 billion since their imposition. -- Scott Parrish JOINT VENTURE DIRECTOR ARRESTED. Peter Yanchev, director of the Russo- British firm Balcar Trading, has been arrested on suspicion of illegal dealing, Izvestiya reported on 26 September. Balcar Trading originated as an auto-dealer in Balashikha, near Moscow, in 1992, but it subsequently became the exclusive exporter for the Noyabrskneftegaz oil corporation. Thanks to its contacts in government circles, Balcar was able to export 10 million tons of oil in 1994. In January and March of this year, Balcar won government licenses to sell eight and then 25 million tons of oil to Mobil Corporation, which would in turn arrange loans for the Russian government. -- Peter Rutland REHABILITATION OF KUBAN COSSACKS. The Krasnodar Krai legislature finally approved a bill on the rehabilitation of the Kuban Cossacks, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 September. The bill denounces the forced deportation of the Cossacks from the region and the lack of independent representation for them in state institutions as a destruction of their ethnic unity and a violation of human rights. However, articles granting privileges to the Cossack-run associations, enterprises, and mass media and putting real estate at their disposal free of charge were excluded from the final version of the bill as too radical. -- Anna Paretskaya DEFENSE MINISTRY OFFICIAL DISCUSSES THE FALL DRAFT. Col. Gen. Vyacheslav Zherebtsov, head of the Main Organization and Mobilization Department of the General Staff, said up to 224,000 people will be drafted from October to December 1995, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported on 28 September. In accordance with legislation passed this spring, the term will increase from 18 months to two years on 1 October to provide the army with a sufficient number of enlisted personnel. The armed forces will then total 1.47 million servicemen, less than the 1.7 million target set by the president. Zherebtsov said that this fall, a two-year alternative service will start being offered to Russian citizens, although he favors at least a four-year alternative service. -- Constantine Dmitriev CLINTON ORDERS MORE HELP TO RUSSIA ON SECURITY OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS. U.S. President Bill Clinton on 28 September directed several federal agencies to increase their cooperation with Russia to improve the security of nuclear weapons, Western agencies reported. He told the Energy Department to assist in improving the accounting systems for nuclear materials and tasked the Defense Department to speed construction of a nuclear material storage facility. Lt. Gen. Sergei Zelentsov, a consultant to the Russian Defense Ministry, said the ministry's control over nuclear weapons is "highly effective," ITAR-TASS reported. The agency quoted Viktor Kruglov, deputy chief of the ministry's Nuclear Safety Inspectorate, as saying that 120 decommissioned nuclear-powered submarines are being kept under constant surveillance and that accidents from their reactors are "fully ruled out. -- Doug Clarke RUSSIA CRITICAL OF NATO EXPANSION PLAN. "We are still opposed" to NATO expansion, Vitalii Churkin, the Russian ambassador to Belgium, said following the release of the new NATO study on the criteria and procedure for accepting new members, Russian and Western agencies reported. In a later interview with Russian Public TV (ORT), however, Churkin said that the new NATO study made clear that the alliance will not expand rapidly. This will allow Russia to "do everything necessary" to ensure its national security, presumably by seeking to delay the process as long as possible. -- Scott Parrish RUSSIA EXPRESSES REGRET OVER KURILS FISHING INCIDENT. At a meeting with Japanese diplomats in Moscow, the Russian Foreign Ministry expressed regret over the shooting of a Japanese fisherman who had violated Russian territorial waters near the disputed South Kuril Islands, Russian and Western agencies reported (See OMRI Daily Digest, 28 September 1995). The ministry added, however, that Tokyo had been warned that Japanese vessels violating Russian waters would be fired upon and said the incident underlined the need to conclude an agreement on fishing rights in the area. Three rounds of talks on the issue, which is linked to the larger territorial dispute, have made little progress. Meanwhile, Interfax reported that the two fishermen captured in the incident will be charged with poaching in Russian territorial waters. -- Scott Parrish CURRENCY EXCHANGE GUARD AND CASHIER MURDERED IN MOSCOW. A guard and cashier at a hard currency exchange were shot and killed in Moscow in the early hours of 28 September, Interfax reported. They were found at 3 a.m. at an exchange point of the Zomoskvoretskii Bank in a northwestern raion. The murderers escaped with $53,000 and a Kalashnikov assault gun which belonged to the guard. The guard is the second police officer to die at the hands of gunmen in Moscow during the day and the sixteenth since the beginning of the year. -- Thomas Sigel LANDSLIDE BURIES AT LEAST 17 IN INGUSHETIYA. A landslide, triggered by a construction crew's improper use of explosives, buried at least 17 people in the Sunzhenskii Raion of Ingushetiya on 27 September, Russian and Western agencies reported the next day. Rescue workers from Moscow, led by Deputy Russian Emergency Minister Sergei Khetagurov, arrived at the disaster scene on 28 September. -- Thomas Sigel MOBS STEAL TONS OF AMBER. Nearly a ton of amber is smuggled out of Russia's richest amber region, Kaliningrad, every day, Argumenty i Fakty reported on 28 September, according to Western sources. The newspaper cited Colonel Boris Levenkov of the Federal Security Service as saying amber poaching has increased almost 10-fold since the Soviet collapse. Poaching is so profitable that people are willing to pay bribes as high as $3,000 for jobs in the mine and factory that give them access to amber, the newspaper reported. It estimated that total losses from amber smuggling could run as high as $1 billion. -- Thomas Sigel TENDER ON SAKHALIN OIL PROJECT ENDS IN FAILURE. An international tender for prospecting and developing several Sakhalin off-shore oil fields (Sakhalin-4 project) failed to find a Western company capable of implementing the project on terms suitable for Russia, according to the Petr Sadovnik of the Sakhalin Regional Committee for Geology and Natural Resources, Interfax reported on 28 September. Only the U.S. firm Exxon submitted a bid, although over 20 corporations showed interest at the presentation of the tender in Denver last November. Sadovnik said Exxon's proposal did not meet the minimum conditions set by the Russian government for production sharing and the payment of resource fees. -- Thomas Sigel TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA ASHGABAT'S TIES TO RIYADH ON THE MEND? Turkmenistan and Saudi Arabia reached agreement on 26 September to open embassies in their respective capitals, according to a Turkmen agency report monitored by the BBC. Relations between the two countries got off to a bad start after Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov traveled to Riyadh in 1992 and offended his hosts when he contravened diplomatic and Islamic practices and prematurely tabled a request for a $10 billion loan; Ashgabat's ties to Iran and Israel have also put a damper on closer ties with Riyadh. -- Lowell Bezanis KAZAKHSTAN ELECTION DECREE. Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbaev is likely to sign a decree on the election procedure in the republic soon, according to "well-informed sources" cited by ITAR-TASS on 28 September. According to the constitution, the new parliament will consist of two chambers and be elected for four years. The upper chamber--the Senate-- will consist of two representatives nominated by Kazakhstan's 19 regions and the capital Almaty. The lower chamber--the Majilis--will consist of 67 members to be elected in single-seat territorial constituencies. Nazarbaev has promised elections to the Majilis in December. -- Bhavna Dave CASPIAN STATES MEETING ENDS IN ALMATY. A two-day meeting on the legal status of the Caspian Sea, attended by Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, and Iran, ended in Almaty on 27 September, Kazakhstani Radio reported that day. Kazakhstani Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Gizatov described Russia's absence from the meeting as "a manifestation of a non-constructive approach." Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Albert Chernyshev told Interfax the same day that Russia could not attend due to "purely technical reasons." He said Russia's request for a postponement of the meeting was turned down by other participants, though Russia was not offended by it. Gizatov said that Kazakhstan is willing to accept the position of Russia and Iran by regarding Caspian as a lake, compromising its earlier stand that it be defined as an inland sea. Kazakhstan's proposal of a demarcation of territorial waters into national sectors and the creation of neutral water zones was discussed at the meeting. Russia has proposed a common ownership of sea- bed resources. -- Bhavna Dave SIX NAMES ANNOUNCED AS CANDIDATES FOR GEORGIAN PRESIDENT. Georgia's Central Electoral Commission reported that six candidates for president had gained the required number of signatures for nomination, BBC reported on 29 September. Eduard Shevardnadze is leading with 105,310 signatures on the nomination list of the Union of Citizens of Georgia and 79,776 on the nomination list of the Socialist Party. He is followed by: Dzhumber Patiashvili (former first secretary of the Georgian Communist Party)--105,906 signatures; Kartlos Gharibashvili (former chairman of the Democratic Party of Georgia)--75,925; Roin Liparteliani (chairman of the Agrarian Party of Georgia)--74,164; Akaki Bakradze (writer and opposition figure)--64,495; and Panteleimon Giorgadze (chairman of the United Communist Party of Georgia)--54,430. -- Irakli Tsereteli CIS KAZAKHSTAN, UKRAINE URGE MORATORIUM ON NUCLEAR TESTS. Ukraine and Kazakhstan, two of the four former Soviet republics which had nuclear weapons on their territory, urged other nations to join them in renouncing nuclear weapons, Western media reported on 28 September. Speaking at the UN General Assembly, Kazakhstani Foreign Minister Kasymjomart Tokaev called for a moratorium on nuclear tests, urging that a comprehensive test ban treaty be concluded no later than next year. Kazakhstan has expressed its concern over Chinese nuclear tests in Lob Nor in the Uigur Autonomous region of Xinjiang, which borders on Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. -- Bhavna Dave [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. 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