|If you are not allowed to laugh in heaven, I don't want to go there. - Martin Luther|
No. 197, Part I, 10 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 DUMA READY TO COMPROMISE ON FEDERATION COUNCIL FORMATION. A significant part of the State Duma is ready to accept President Boris Yeltsin's plan for forming the Federation Council, Vladimir Isakov, chairman of the Duma Committee on Legislation, told ITAR-TASS on 9 October. Yeltsin wants to appoint the member of the upper house from the regions, while the Duma had supported proposals to have them elected. Many of the deputies are now willing to compromise because they believe it would be better to have an appointed Council than none at all. Isakov said he is strongly against the idea of extending the term of the current Council, as the upper house itself proposed on 5 October. -- Robert Orttung LUZHKOV, ROSSEL RATED MOST INFLUENTIAL REGIONAL POLITICIANS. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov remained the most influential regional politician in Russia in September, Vechernyaya Moskva reported on 7 October, citing a poll of experts prepared by the Public Opinion Foundation. Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Eduard Rossel ranked second, up from fifth place on the foundation's list in August. Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev placed a distant third, followed by Nizhnii Novgorod Governor Boris Nemtsov and St. Petersburg Mayor Anatolii Sobchak. -- Laura Belin EXPERT PREDICTS FEW PARTIES WILL CLEAR 5% HURDLE. Current data suggest that only four political parties will win more than 5% of the vote nationwide in the December parliamentary elections, Boris Grushin of the polling firm Vox Populi told Russian TV on 9 October. Grushin said the Communist Party leads the field with 14% support among likely voters, followed by Our Home Is Russia with 10%, Yabloko with 8%, and Women of Russia with 7%. Vox Populi found very low levels of support for Russia's Democratic Choice, the Liberal Democratic Party, and the Agrarian Party, which have the largest factions in the current Duma. Grushin said his data is consistent with other recent polls carried out by respected firms. Clearing the 5% barrier will be crucial, since half of the State Duma's 450 seats will be allocated from party lists and they will be divided only among those parties that gain at least 5% support nationwide. -- Laura Belin COMMUNISTS FIRST TO RECEIVE CAMPAIGN FUNDS FROM ELECTORAL COMMISSION. The Central Electoral Commission allocated 80 million rubles ($18,000) in campaign funds to the Communist Party, Radio Rossii reported on 9 October. Under the law on parliamentary elections, the commission must grant equal funds for campaign agitation to all electoral associations registered to appear on the party-list ballot (for which at least 200,000 signatures are required). The Communists were the first party to submit a valid petition to the commission. -- Laura Belin IMPLEMENTATION OF CHECHEN MILITARY AGREEMENT SUSPENDED. The disarmament of the Chechen militants and the withdrawal of Russian troops was indefinitely suspended on 9 October following the attempted assassination of federal forces commander Lt. Gen. Anatolii Romanov on 6 October, Russian media reported. Also on 9 October, the Russian delegation to the special observer commission that monitors compliance with the 30 July disarmament and withdrawal agreement demanded that the Chechen side apprehend the would-be assassin. Meanwhile, Moscow's top leaders in charge of the Chechen situation are all reportedly in favor of a state of emergency, as are pro-Moscow Chechen leaders Umar Avturkhanov and Salambek Khadzhiev; the pro-Dudaev faction, including Chechen delegation head Aslan Maskhadov, reject it. In other news, OSCE mission head Sandor Meszaros said the mission's personnel will probably be reduced following a 6 October grenade attack on it, Interfax reported on 9 October. -- Liz Fuller CZECH REPUBLIC AND POLAND MAY BE TARGETED WITH NUCLEAR WEAPONS. Quoting an anonymous officer from the Main Operations Directorate of the Russian General Staff, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 7 October that Russia might target Poland and the Czech Republic with nuclear weapons should those countries join NATO. The newspaper said that this move is among possible responses to NATO expansion currently being prepared by the General Staff. Poland and the Czech Republic recently declared that they would be willing to accept NATO nuclear weapons on their soil if they joined the alliance. -- Doug Clarke and Scott Parrish RUSSIA SAYS BOSNIA CEASEFIRE SHOULD PROCEED. A Foreign Ministry spokesman told Interfax on 9 October that Russia remains "firmly in favor" of implementing the Bosnian ceasefire on schedule at midnight on 10 October. The spokesman rejected any linkage between the actual resumption of gas deliveries to Sarajevo and the implementation of the ceasefire. Since President Yeltsin had announced on 5 October that Russia was prepared to resume gas supplies, he added, "there are no political obstacles" to implementing the ceasefire. The Russian diplomat added that Bosnia was to blame for the delay in restoring the flow of gas to Sarajevo, because although Russia had "always been ready" for technical discussions on reopening the pipeline, a Bosnian delegation had arrived in Moscow to discuss the issue only late on 9 October. Nevertheless, Radio Rossii on 10 October cited Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev as saying the gas flow had been restored. -- Scott Parrish RUSSIAN DELEGATION IN CUBA FOR TALKS. A high-level Russian delegation led by First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets begins a six-day official visit to Cuba on 10 October, Russian and Western agencies reported. Among the agreements scheduled for signing during the visit are an extension of the current bilateral oil-for-sugar barter deal through 1998, and a memorandum calling for Russian firms to complete the unfinished nuclear power station at Juragua, which is to be equipped with VVER-440 reactors. According to ITAR-TASS, the delegation includes General Mikhail Kolesnikov, chief of the Russian General Staff, who will negotiate an agreement allowing Russia to continue using an electronic intelligence facility at Lourdes, near Havana. Russian participation in the Juragua project and the continued use of the Lourdes facility have provoked harsh criticism in the U.S. Congress. -- Scott Parrish TALIBAN REFUSES TO RELEASE RUSSIAN PILOTS. The rebel Afghan Taliban movement has refused to release the Russian pilots it is holding hostage until complete information is provided on 6,800 Afghans who they claim were taken prisoner to the former Soviet Union during the Afghan war and are still held in Russia, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 October. The Russian crew of an Il-76 plane carrying ammunition for the Kabul government has been held captive since 3 August when it was forced down by a Taliban Mig-21 fighter. Earlier, Taliban had demanded information on 60,000 missing Afghans in exchange for the crew's release. The Russian Foreign Ministry is currently examining Taliban's list of missing Afghans. -- Constantine Dmitriev DECEIVED INVESTORS OWED 20 TRILLION RUBLES. Bankrupt financial companies owe investors at least 20 trillion rubles ($4.4 billion), according to Mikhail Sherstov, a representative of the All-Russian Movement of Investors, which claims to represent the interests of 40 million defrauded investors, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 October. At its founding congress on 4-6 October, the movement resolved to set up a national electoral association called "National Trust" to back parties and candidates running in the December parliamentary elections that support the idea of state compensation for investors who lost their savings as a result of financial scams and bankruptcies. -- Penny Morvant MOSCOW DUMA DEPUTY ABSCONDS WITH SEVERAL MILLION DOLLARS. Moscow City Duma deputy Svetlana Zhuravleva has moved permanently to the U.S., having taken with her several million dollars borrowed from Russian banks and commercial enterprises, ITAR-TASS and Ekho Moskvy reported on 9 October. The Procurator General's Office could not launch criminal proceedings against Zhuravleva, due to her immunity from prosecution as a deputy. Last year, procurators unsuccessfully tried to lift the immunity of 350 deputies from national and local legislatures who were suspected of crimes, ITAR-TASS reported. On 5 October, the State Duma faction Stability started gathering deputies' signatures to put the issue of abolishing immunity on the legislature's agenda, Interfax reported. -- Anna Paretskaya POLICE RAID ENVIRONMENTAL GROUP'S OFFICES. Russian security forces raided the Murmansk offices of the Norwegian environmental group Bellona on 6 October, Reuters reported, citing the group's business leader, Frederic Hauge. Hauge said the police seized three computers and suggested that the raid was linked to Bellona's work to uncover environmental threats to the Kola Peninsula, home to the world's largest military fleet. Bellona is seeking to draw international attention to scrapped nuclear submarines on the peninsula and its activists work as informal advisers to the Norwegian Foreign Ministry on nuclear contamination in the area. -- Penny Morvant UNION OF LABOR ON WAGE ARREARS. At a press conference in Moscow on 6 October, representatives of the Union of Labor electoral bloc of unionists and industrialists advocated the introduction of criminal liability for those responsible for delaying the payment of wages and failing to implement the budget. Mikhail Shmakov, the chairman of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions, said that 36,000 companies were behind in wage payments and attacked the government for failing to pay for goods ordered by state agencies, ITAR-TASS and Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. The issue of wage arrears is likely to attract increasing attention from political groups as the elections approach. -- Penny Morvant SUGAR BEET AND SUNFLOWER SEED PRODUCTION TO INCREASE. Early estimates from Russia's Agriculture Ministry show that agricultural producers have harvested a total of 60.8 million tons of grain from 42 million hectares of land, or 85% of the grain crop area, by the end of last week, Interfax reported on 9 October. According to the report, Russia will collect less grain this year than the 81.3 million tons collected in 1994, but sugar beet and sunflower seed production should be up. Up to last week, Russian producers had collected sugar beets from more than 73% of the crop area and produced 13 million tons of beet--4 million tons more than in the same period last year. They produced 2.1 million tons of sunflower seeds--a 740,000 ton increase. -- Thomas Sigel TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA FACE-SAVING FORMULA FOR EXPORT OF CASPIAN OIL. On 9 October the Azerbaijan International Operating Company (AIOC) and the Azerbaijani state oil company announced their decision to export equal amounts of so-called early oil from both the Russian port of Novorossiisk and an unspecified Georgian Black Sea port, Western and Russian news agencies reported. Russian, Azerbaijani, and Turkish sources suggest that the Georgian port of Supsa has been chosen; other Western sources say it will be Batumi. Construction of the Russian line requires the laying of 27 km of pipeline; the Georgian one necessitates extensive repairs to an existing pipeline and the laying of 117 km of new pipeline plus the construction of a terminal at Supsa. The president of the AIOC, Terry Adams, was quoted by Western media as saying he anticipates that the main export route, to come on line around 2002, will travel to the Turkish port of Ceyhan. An oil industry executive involved in the deal told the BBC the same day he was unaware of any such preference. While the plan appears pragmatic and well-balanced, it will not end the wrangling between participants in the deal. -- Lowell Bezanis DISSIDENT TAJIK JOURNALIST ARRESTED IN MOSCOW. Abdukayum Kayumov, a journalist for the Tajik opposition newspaper Charogi Ruz, was arrested in Moscow on 8 October, according to a 10 October article in Komsomolskaya pravda. Tajik authorities have shut down the newspaper and declared possession of the paper to be a illegal. Kayumov was taken into custody by Moscow police and will be extradited to Tajikistan. The staff of Charogi Ruz fled at the end of the Tajik civil war, mainly to Moscow, where they continue to publish their paper. Police are searching for Mirzo Salimov, another journalist for the paper who is wanted by Tajik authorities. -- Bruce Pannier 15 BODIES RECOVERED FROM KYRGYZ HELICOPTER CRASH. A search party has found the bodies of the passengers and crew of a Kyrgyz helicopter that crashed on 4 October, Western sources and ITAR-TASS reported. The helicopter was carrying 12 foreigners including nine Canadians from the Cameco mining company which is a partner in the Kumtor gold field project. The helicopter was returning from the Kumtor fields when it encountered bad weather in the Tien-Shan mountains. Both poor visibility and lightning have been offered as possible causes of the crash. -- Bruce Pannier EXPLOITING SHAH DENIZ. Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev has signed a decree permitting the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan (SOCAR) to undertake negotiations and conclude a contract for the joint exploration and development of the Shah Deniz oil and gas field in the Caspian Sea, Interfax reported on 7 October. Situated 40-50 km southeast of Baku, the recoverable reserves in the Shah Deniz are estimated to be 400 billion cubic meters of natural gas, 200 million metric tons of gas condensate and 100 million metric tons of oil. The consortium for developing Shah Deniz includes British Petroleum, Norway's Statoil, Turkey's TPAO, and SOCAR. -- Lowell Bezanis [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. 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