|The salvation of mankind lies only in making everything the concern of all. - Alexander Solzhenitsyn|
No. 200, Part I, 13 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 GRACHEV WILL NOT SEEK A DUMA SEAT. Defense Minister Pavel Grachev announced on 12 October that he will not campaign for a seat in the Duma, ITAR-TASS reported. Grachev earlier had said that 123 officers will seek election to represent the military's interests in the parliament, leading many Russian journalists to speculate that he personally would join the campaign. -- Robert Orttung CHERNOMYRDIN DISSATISFIED WITH GOVERNMENT'S WORK. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin described his government's work as "unsatisfactory" at a 12 October meeting with his ministers. He complained that the government is not living up to the plans outlined in President Boris Yeltsin's 16 February speech to the parliament calling for the creation of a legal basis to facilitate the country's economic renewal, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. Chernomyrdin said that only 50% of the required laws are in place. -- Robert Orttung OUR HOME IS RUSSIA CLAIMS 1.7 MILLION SIGNATURES. Our Home is Russia claimed to have gathered 1.7 million signatures in support of its registration for the Duma campaign, Rossiiskaya gazeta reported on 13 October. The vast majority of the more than 70 parties who have announced their intention to participate in the race are "close to panic" because they believe that they will have difficulty collecting the necessary 200,000 signatures by the 22 October deadline, Moskovskie novosti reported in its 8-15 October issue. -- Robert Orttung CHARGES DROPPED IN "KUKLY" CASE. Acting Procurator-General Oleg Gaidanov announced that the criminal case against NTV's satirical puppet show "Kukly" has been closed, Russian and Western agencies reported on 12 October. The case against "Kukly" had been initiated by Gaidanov's predecessor, Aleksei Ilyushenko, who was dismissed on 8 October. Procurators charged the show's producers with insulting high government officials on 14 July and filed tax evasion and currency dealing charges against them on 18 August. NTV continued to broadcast "Kukly," and network executives denounced the charges as attempts to intimidate the independent media. -- Laura Belin RUSSIA LACKS NATIONALITIES POLICY Speakers addressing a Moscow conference on nationalities in the Russian Federation agreed that the country currently lacks a unified policy on ethnic questions, Russian public TV (ORT) reported the same day. Prime Minister Chernomyrdin, addressing the conference, stressed the "unifying role of the Russian nation" (ethnos). While recognizing the nations' desire for self- determination, he argued this must not threaten the unity of the federation. -- Peter Rutland PROVINCES MAKE CONTROVERSIAL SUGGESTIONS ON LOCAL ELECTIONS. Voronezh Oblast Governor Aleksandr Kovalev, who until recently supported holding gubernatorial elections in the region, asked President Yeltsin to declare a moratorium on all federal and local elections for at least two years, ITAR-TASS reported on 11 October. Kovalev argued that election campaigns destabilize society economically and politically. Meanwhile, Belgorod Oblast authorities asked the president to allow them to hold gubernatorial elections this year instead of postponing them till December 1996, as proposed by the 18 September presidential decree on local elections. Belgorod Governor Yevgenii Savchenko said direct gubernatorial elections would break what he called "totalitarian methods of administration." -- Anna Paretskaya NEW COMMANDER IN CHECHNYA. General Anatolii Shkirko, the deputy commander of Russia's Internal Troops, has been appointed the new commander of the joint group of federal forces in Chechnya, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 October, quoting a source in the federal press center in Chechnya. Shkirko replaces General Anatolii Romanov who was seriously wounded in an assassination attempt on 6 October. Romanov remains commander of Russia's Interior Troops and the source denied he was being replaced in that position as well. -- Doug Clarke PRACTICE RAID ON UNSUSPECTING TV STATION IN SAKHALIN. Armed local OMON special forces carried out a practice raid on the Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk television center without notifying the station's managers in advance, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 October. Valerii Belyaev, director of the Sakhalin television and radio company, complained that the raid had frightened staff and caused material damage to the center. -- Laura Belin RUSSIAN AND INDIAN OFFICIALS OPTIMISTIC ABOUT TRADE. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yurii Yarov and Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee hailed the results of their talks on economic and scientific cooperation, Russian and Western agencies reported on 12 October. The two sides discussed India's repayment of its currently estimated $6.1 billion debt to the former Soviet Union. Differences over debt repayment have hampered bilateral trade. Nevertheless, Russian-Indian trade continues to recover from its slump following the collapse of the Soviet Union, and is expected to double from the $1.4 billion level attained in 1994. -- Scott Parrish CASH SHORTAGE STRANDS COSMONAUTS IN ORBIT. Financial difficulties will force the three-man crew of the orbiting Mir space station to spend an additional 39 days in space, Russian and Western agencies reported on 12 October. Anonymous Russian officials said the crew, two Russians and a German, was to return to earth on 13 January 1995, but a shortage of cash has delayed the construction of the Soyuz U-2 booster rocket that was to lift their replacements into orbit. Russian Space Agency spokesman Anatolii Tkachev said the booster will be ready only on 21 February. -- Scott Parrish KUZBASS MINERS STRIKE. Miners rallied throughout the Kuzbass on 12 October in a one-day action to protest wage arrears and demand social protection for redundant workers. Work came to a complete standstill at a number of pits, but Coal Industry Workers' Union Deputy Chairman Ivan Mokhnachuk said many work collectives dropped plans to strike because of government action the previous day to expedite the payment of wage arrears and provide some subsidies and tax privileges for mining enterprises. The main reason for the buildup of unpaid wages is debts from coal consumers, which totaled 3.3 trillion rubles ($740 million) at the beginning of September, according to ITAR-TASS. -- Penny Morvant CORRUPTION IN MOSCOW POLICE. Confirming numerous previous reports of rampant corruption in the capital's police force, a Moscow official said on 12 October that 960 officers have been sacked this year for taking bribes or otherwise abusing their positions. Disciplinary action was taken against another 6,000 of Moscow's more than 100,000 police officers, ITAR-TASS reported. Police are poorly paid and lack equipment, while crime rates have soared. According to an 11 October report, 8,000 gangs are currently operating in Russia. -- Penny Morvant CONTROVERSIAL POET FREED PENDING TRIAL. Alina Vitukhnovskaya, a young poet who has been in prison for nearly a year awaiting trial on charges of selling drugs worth about $20, has been freed pending the final verdict. The case has attracted considerable media attention, with Vitukhnovskaya's supporters, including the Moscow PEN center, seeing the trial as a sign that Russia's new freedoms are under threat by the state. Vitukhnovskaya published an article on drug-taking among the Moscow elite in Novoe vremya last February, and her lawyers argue that the Federal Security Service planted evidence against her in the hopes of obtaining information about the drug trade. -- Penny Morvant MILITARY CONSCRIPTS A POOR LOT. Russian military conscripts are less healthy, more prone to suicide, less educated, and more likely to be criminals than was the case three years ago, the military's top tank officer said on 11 October. General Aleksandr Galkin added that the health of new conscripts is "catastrophic." In the spring draft, 31% of the conscripts were rejected for diseases in their internal organs, 20% for surgical reasons, and 19% for mental disturbances. Galkin reported that the number of suicides rose by 23% over the last seven years and deaths caused by alcohol addiction were up 80%. Only 7,000 conscripts (3%) have a higher education and 31% have not finished secondary school. He added that 11,000 conscripts are former convicts. -- Doug Clarke COMPENSATION FOR DEFRAUDED INVESTORS? Prime Minister Chernomyrdin told Duma deputies that the government will move ahead with the creation of a compensation fund for defrauded investors, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 October. Meanwhile, in a meeting with President Yeltsin on 11 October, Nizhnii Novgorod Governor Boris Nemtsov persuaded Yeltsin to instruct the Central Bank of Russia to release the reserves frozen after the collapse of the Nizhegorodskii Kredit Bank, Interfax reported on 12 October. That will enable the bank to compensate some of its 100,00 stricken account holders. -- Peter Rutland DUMA BILL TO PROTECT ELECTRICITY USERS. On 11 October the Duma passed on first reading a law which would forbid cutting off electricity to certain categories of consumers, including defense installations, Interfax reported the next day. The bill also proposed Duma regulation of electricity prices from January 1996. Speaking in Bashkortostan the same day, Prime Minister Chernomyrdin said that electricity and transport prices would be frozen until the end of the year. -- Peter Rutland RUSSIAN OIL FOR CUBAN SUGAR. Over the next three years, Russia will supply Cuba with 10.5 million tons of oil in return for 4 million tons of sugar, Interfax reported on 11 October. The deal is a concrete manifestation of the "strategic partnership" between the two countries which has been declared during the current visit of First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets to the island. In May of this year, Russia agreed to supply 3 million tons of oil for 1995 in return for 1 million tons of sugar. Russians consume more than 4 million tons of sugar a year and produced only 1.7 million tons from domestic sugar beet in 1994. -- Peter Rutland TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA OPPOSITION: TAJIK PRESIDENT OBSTACLE TO PEACE. Tajik opposition leader Saud Abdullo Nuri criticized President Imomali Rakhmonov for his inflexibility on the choice of a site for the next round of peace negotiations, Interfax reported on 12 October. The Tajik government wants the talks held in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, a country Nuri says has nothing to do with inter-Tajik talks. Nuri claimed that the 1st brigade violated the 1994 Tehran agreement by moving to the Vakhsh valley. He said Rakhmonov is seeking to "strengthen his own position" and prevent returning refugees from taking part in political life. -- Bruce Pannier AKAEV PROMISES CHANGES IN KYRGYZSTAN. Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev vowed to reshuffle and change the structure of the government if he is re- elected in December, Interfax reported on 11 October. Akaev also said he has a plan to create as many as 150,000 jobs during 1996-97 and a program to stabilize economic growth that features six unspecified large projects worth $600 million. He also said wants to stem the emigration of the Russian-speaking population and resolve any conflicts between inhabitants of northern and southern Kyrgyzstan. Russian TV reported on 12 October that more than half the southern population are extremely dissatisfied with the fact that almost all key government positions are filled with northerners. The report claims many are ready to fight to keep Akaev out of office next year. -- Bruce Pannier AKAEV PROMISES CHANGES IN KYRGYZSTAN. Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev vowed to reshuffle and change the structure of the government if he is reelected in December, Interfax reported on 11 October. Akaev said he planned to revive the economy through six unspecified large projects worth $600 million. The Kyrgyz president wants to stem the emigration of the Russian-speaking population and resolve tension between the inhabitants of northern and southern Kyrgyzstan. Russian TV reported on 12 October that the people of southern Kyrgyzstan are dissatisfied with the fact that almost all key government positions are filled with northerners. -- Bruce Pannier POLITICAL OPPOSITION ACTIVITY IN UZBEKISTAN. The fragmented opposition movements in Uzbekistan are attempting to find common ground, Interfax reported on 10 October. A new Opposition Coordinating Center will open in Tashkent under the leadership of Shukhrulla Mirsaidov, former Uzbek vice president. Among the groups that will participate in the center are the Democratic Party Erk, Birlik, Tumariz, and Mirsaidov's own Khaq Yul- Adolat, which was formed this past year. Previous attempts to mount a united front against President Islam Karimov have failed, mainly due to personality conflicts among opposition figures and government pressure -- Roger Kangas UZBEK-TAJIK NEGOTIATIONS ON GAS DELIVERIES. Tajik First Deputy Prime Minister Mahmadsaid Ubaydullayev arrived in Tashkent to discuss the recent disagreement over Uzbek shipments of gas to Tajikistan. According to an Interfax report on 10 October, Uzbekistan stopped all gas deliveries on 6 October because Tajikistan owed $2 million for gas previously shipped. Uzbekistan charges $84 per 1,000 cubic meters; Tajik officials are hoping to work out a deal with Turkmenistan for cheaper gas ($43-50 per 1,000 cubic meters). -- Roger Kangas [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. 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