|When in doubt, tell the truth. - Mark Twain|
No. 194, Part I, 5 October 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 CHERNOMYRDIN SAYS HE WILL NOT RUN FOR PRESIDENT . . . Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin said he does not plan to run for president and rejected rumors of tension between him and President Boris Yeltsin, Russian agencies reported on 4 October. The rumors were partially based on the fact that two recently scheduled meetings between Yeltsin and Chernomyrdin failed to take place. The announcement suggests that Yeltsin will seek a second term since Chernomyrdin is usually described as the president's designated heir. Izvestiya reported 5 October that the rumors have only helped increase the stature of Congress of Russian Communities' (KRO) leader Yurii Skokov, who is often named as a possible replacement for Chernomyrdin. The prime minister also rejected as a "fantasy" the proposal floated by Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Shakhrai that members of the government take a leave of absence during the election campaign. -- Robert Orttung . . . SKOKOV DENIES RUMORS OF HIS APPOINTMENT AS PRIME MINISTER. KRO leader Skokov said persistent rumors that he may be appointed to replace Chernomyrdin as prime minister are "absolutely groundless," according to an interview published in Moskovskie novosti (No. 67). Sergei Glazev, who recently joined the KRO party list, confirmed that Skokov's participation in the current government is out of the question, Segodnya reported on 4 October. Skokov supported President Yeltsin during the August 1991 coup and was the presidential Security Council secretary from April 1992 to May 1993. Since then, he has strongly criticized the Chernomyrdin government's economic policies. -- Laura Belin DUMA OPENS FALL SESSION. The State Duma opened its fall session without calling for an expected vote of no confidence in the government. The chairman of the Budget and Finance Committee, Mikhail Zadornov, said the deputies wanted to avoid giving President Yeltsin an opportunity to disband the Duma during the campaign, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported on 4 October. The Duma rejected a long-debated draft law regulating the activities of lobbyists in the legislative and executive branches, Russian TV reported. The measure gained only 119 votes out of the necessary 226. The main debate centered around the registration and licensing of lobbyists who would be required to obtain one-year permits to continue working. -- Robert Orttung MMM SHAREHOLDERS PICKET CENTRAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION. About 200 shareholders in Sergei Mavrodi's notorious MMM investment fund picketed the Central Electoral Commission demanding that Mavrodi's new Party of People's Capital be allowed to register for parliamentary elections, Radio Mayak and Russian TV reported on 4 October. The commission denied it registration on 29 September because Mavrodi said only party members would be paid dividends on MMM shares. Mavrodi suspended all payments to shareholders immediately after winning a Duma seat in a November 1994 by-election, but he has promised to pay investors back if he is re- elected this year. -- Laura Belin BASHKORSTOSTAN'S PRESIDENT REJECTS LAND PRIVATIZATION. Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov claimed that allowing farm land to be bought and sold could lead to "tragic consequences" for Russia, according to an interview published in Segodnya on 4 October. Rakhimov said that although he is open to all types of ownership, the government must recognize that its citizens, and rural dwellers in particular, were raised with a psychology of "hatred" for more successful neighbors. He also asserted that living standards at most kolkhozy and sovkhozy (collective and state-owned farms) are no worse than on farms in the West. While acknowledging that his views on land privatization differ from current government policy, Rakhimov confirmed that he will support Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's bloc Our Home Is Russia in the upcoming Duma elections for the sake of stability. -- Laura Belin OMSK TO HOLD MAYORAL ELECTIONS THIS YEAR. The Omsk local parliament and government still plan to hold mayoral elections on 17 December 1995 despite the presidential decree postponing local elections till the end of 1996, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 October (see OMRI Daily Digest, 19 September 1995). Omsk regional parliament Deputy Speaker Aleksandr Ragozin said election plans are consistent with current legislation, including the federal law on local self-government ratified by the State Duma and signed by President Yeltsin on 28 August. Yeltsin has since asked his advisers to draft a new law on local self-government. -- Anna Paretskaya REGIONS DEMAND NATIONALIZATION OF ENERGY SECTOR. A parliamentary committee source told the Petroleum Information Agency that several regional legislative bodies have launched a campaign to demand the nationalization of Russia's energy and fuel sector, Interfax reported on 4 October. Earlier this year, the Smolensk regional parliament approved a resolution that blamed Russia's economic crisis on the sector's rapid privatization. The resolution was supported by Federation Council deputy Aman Tuleev, who is also chairman of the Kemerovo regional Duma, as well as several local parliaments. According to Interfax, the source said the new movement may gain widespread support from both regional legislators and government officials in the forthcoming elections. -- Anna Paretskaya RUSSIAN MILITARY INTELLIGENCE TO INCREASE ITS ACTIVITIES IN WESTERN EUROPE. With an eye on the possible expansion of NATO, President Yeltsin has instructed the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) to step up its activities in Western Europe, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 4 October. The GRU is a separate service from the civilian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) and has its own spy-satellites and a worldwide network of agents. In accordance with Yeltsin's directives, the Main Intelligence Directorate plans to penetrate the inner circle of NATO Secretary General Willy Claes and to infiltrate various NATO military sites. The GRU also wants to broaden industrial espionage to obtain technological data on new Western military equipment while it is still under development. -- Constantine Dmitriev KOZYREV VISITS NORWAY. Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev arrived in Oslo on 4 October for talks with Norwegian officials on Norway's proposal to lift a self-imposed ban on NATO military exercises near the border with Russia, Russian and Western agencies reported. He criticized the proposal as "not conducive to our effort to create a European security system." Kozyrev also tentatively announced that President Yeltsin would visit Norway on 20-21 November, a trip that was postponed in July because of the Russian president's heart attack. Before departing for Oslo, Kozyrev again blasted the proposed eastward expansion of NATO. -- Scott Parrish RUSSIA CRITICIZES NATO AIR STRIKES. Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev on 4 October criticized the NATO air strikes on Bosnian Serb radar positions, Russian and Western agencies reported. Kozyrev said before his departure for Norway that international efforts should focus on achieving a stable ceasefire in Bosnia rather than on military action which might "set fire to the oil." He added that Russia would launch a new diplomatic initiative for an overall Bosnian settlement soon. Although he gave no details, Kozyrev presumably was referring to the ongoing shuttle diplomacy of First Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, currently in the former Yugoslavia for talks with Serb, Croat, and Bosnian officials. -- Scott Parrish THREE MILLION ABORTIONS PERFORMED IN 1994. Academician Vladimir Kulakov told a national conference on family planning on 4 October that about 3 million abortions were performed in Russia in 1994. (A report released in June put the figure at about 3.5 million.) ITAR-TASS quoted Kulakov as saying that "artificial termination of pregnancy remains, as before, the only method of regulating the birthrate in Russia" and that the high number of abortions has caused a deterioration in women's reproductive health, high maternal mortality, infertility, and poor infant health. He added that Russians are becoming more conscious of family planning but the absence of sex education and modern contraceptives keeps the abortion rate high. -- Penny Morvant LATEST AVERAGE WAGE FIGURES. The average wage in Russia reached 520,600 rubles ($115) in August, a 4.2% increase over July, Goskomstat announced on 4 October. According to ITAR-TASS, the average August wage in the energy, ferrous metallurgical, and fishing industries was over 1 million rubles ($225), while workers in culture, education, and agriculture earned less than 300,000 ($67). The share of wages in the total income of Russian families has fallen significantly over the past few years. -- Penny Morvant DRAFT BUDGET MEETS HEAVY CRITICISM. The Russian government's draft budget for 1996 met heavy criticism in both houses of parliament on 4 October, Russian and Western agencies reported the same day. The Federation Council approved a resolution calling for more social spending and subsidies for regions and industry. The draft calls for slashing spending and boosting revenues in an effort to cut the deficit and reduce inflation. The government is forecasting an average monthly inflation rate of 1.2% next year, down from the 6-7% forecast for 1995. The Duma will hold its first major budget hearing on 5 October, but its budget committee already called for revisions, charging that the government's inflation target is unattainably low. Legislators from the Agrarian faction and supporters of the military blasted the draft, calling for increases in farm subsidies and military spending. -- Thomas Sigel IMF REPORTS ECONOMIC OUTPUT STARTING TO RECOVER. Economic output in Russia is starting to recover after years of decline, even though real- term GDP is still expected to fall by 4.5% in 1995 following a 15% contraction last year, AFP reported on 4 October, citing the IMF's World Economic Outlook report. Meanwhile, privatization is making headway, although many businesses are hampered by obsolete technology and poor management. High inflation remains a problem, although tight financial policies have brought it down considerably. The IMF is critical of the Russian government's inability to increase taxes, notably on oil and gas, attributing it to political rather than economic considerations. -- Thomas Sigel DUMA ASKS YELTSIN TO NAME CANDIDATE TO HEAD CENTRAL BANK. The Duma voted unanimously on 4 October to request that President Yeltsin name a candidate for the post of Central Bank of Russia chairperson, Interfax reported the same day. The Duma said the "very alarming" state of the country's banking system could worsen if there is more delay in appointing a chairperson. Yeltsin has offered the post to acting Chairwoman Tatyana Paramonova twice, but the legislature rejected her both times. -- Thomas Sigel TRANSCAUCASIA & CENTRAL ASIA SOUTH OSSETIAN PRIME MINISTER ESCAPES BOMB ATTACK. The prime minister of the self-proclaimed Republic of South Ossetia, Vladislav Gabaraev, and his family escaped uninjured when an explosive device severely damaged their home in Tskhinvali during the evening of 4 October, Interfax reported. Local police suspect that former South Ossetian officials involved in the misappropriation of humanitarian aid to the breakaway region were responsible. -- Liz Fuller SHIFTING SANDS ENCOURAGES IPC TO LEAVE TURKMENISTAN. The International Petroleum Corporation (IPC) of Canada has withdrawn from the LARMAG- Chelekan joint venture, thereby ending its involvement in Turkmenistan, AFP reported on 3 October. In compensation for its shareholdings, accrued interest, and costs, IPC received $13.2 million from two key participants in the venture, LARMAG Energy NV and LARMAG Energy Assets Ltd. In mid-September, IPC requested repayment from LARMAG because the Turkmen government refused to approve the assignment of an interest in the joint venture; IPC also claimed the government refused to renew the joint venture's license to export oil and was seeking to renegotiate the financial terms of the joint venture. -- Lowell Bezanis KAZAKHSTAN DEFENDS NUCLEAR ARMS CONTROL RECORD. Kazakhstani Foreign Minister Kassymjomart Tokaev denied rumors that materials dismantled from nuclear weapons are being smuggled abroad, Reuters reported on 4 October. Tokaev was on a visit to the U.S. where he signed an agreement to seal the Degelen Mountain nuclear weapons test tunnel complex located in Semipalatinsk. He said that "de facto Kazakhstan is a non-nuclear state" as it has rid itself of all nuclear weapons formerly on its territory and exploded its last silo structure in September. -- Bhavna Dave KAZAKHSTANI PROPOSAL OVER CASPIAN SEA DIVISION. In the interview with the Petroleum Information Agency (PIA) on 4 October, Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbaev reiterated his country's position that the Caspian Sea should be divided into well-demarcated sovereign territorial water zones. Speaking at the international conference "Oil and Gas '95" in Almaty, Kazakhstani Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Gizzatov proposed that all five littoral states (Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, and Iran) should have their own 12-mile wide territorial zones and exclusive rights to use the seabed, its mineral resources, and lay underwater pipelines in national sectors. Kazakhstan opposes the common seabed ownership preferred by Russia. Kazakhstan abides by the 1982 UN Maritime Convention that deep sea water zones be jointly used by all Caspian nations and believes that clearing up the legal status of the sea will bring more foreign investments to the region, Gizzatov said. -- Vyacheslav Kozlov [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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