|Human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast obscure unfinished masterpiece. - Vladimir Nabokov|
No. 201, Part I, 16 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 ASKS DUMA FOR "NON-AGGRESSION PACT." Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin proposed a "non-aggression pact" between the Duma and the government in order to pass vital legislation before the December parliamentary elections, Russian and Western agencies reported on 13 October. Chernomyrdin's call for "peaceful coexistence" with parliament reflects a major theme of Our Home Is Russia's campaign rhetoric: Russia should be governed by "professionals" who will set aside political wrangling in the interests of stability. Izvestiya noted on 14 October that many Duma deputies did not attend the prime minister's address, having skipped the session to work on their campaigns instead. -- Laura Belin DUMA POSTPONES DECISION ON 1996 BUDGET. The Duma avoided direct criticism of the government during the first reading of budget on 13 October, Russian TV reported. However, the lower house adjourned without taking a vote or setting up a commission to draft a compromise budget with the government. Prime Minister Chernomyrdin reassured the deputies that the government would pay wage and pension arrears, compensate investors, and increase military spending. The only point of sharp disagreement was over Finance Minister Boris Panskov's insistence that the projected monthly inflation for 1996 will be 1.2%. Deputies want the budget to assume inflation of 5% a month, allowing a higher level of spending. Commentators suggested that deputies were compliant because they wanted to appear respectable before the December elections, others argued that they do not really care because they expect the Duma to rewrite the budget after the elections. -- Peter Rutland YELTSIN MEETS WITH REPUBLICAN LEADERS. At a 16 October meeting in the Kremlin, President Boris Yeltsin assured the leaders of Russia's 21 ethnically defined republics that he would stick to peaceful methods of resolving the Chechen crisis during, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais told the republican leaders that the government would increase financial aid to the regions by 160% to 38 trillion rubles ($8.5 billion) in 1996, NTV and Radio Rossii reported. Instead of receiving 27% of value-added tax as they now do, the republics will keep 15% of all federal taxes they collect, a change the federal authorities hope will encourage them to collect the taxes more quickly. -- Robert Orttung LEBED FORMS NEW SOCIAL MOVEMENT. Lt. Gen. Aleksandr Lebed (ret.) announced the formation of a new social movement called Honor and Motherland, ITAR-TASS reported 15 October. The movement will support the revival and strengthening of the Russian military. Lebed stressed that the creation of the new organization does not affect his position as deputy chairman of the Congress of Russian Communities and that it does not have political goals. -- Robert Orttung YELTSIN CONCERNED CRIMINALS WILL ENTER PARLIAMENT . . . At a meeting with regional leaders on 13 October, President Yeltsin said some regional candidates for the December parliamentary elections have already come under pressure to drop out of the race to boost the electoral chances of criminal candidates, ITAR-TASS reported. The previous day, new acting Procurator-General Oleg Gaidanov said that at least 100 people with criminal records are running for parliament and that he feared gangsters might win seats in the new Duma. -- Penny Morvant . . . WHILE AIDE SEES CRIME AS MAJOR THREAT TO NATIONAL SECURITY. Organized crime poses one of the greatest threats to Russian national security, but the authorities lack funds to combat it, presidential aide Yurii Baturin told reporters in Moscow on 13 October. He said cases often fall apart in court because of the intimidation of witnesses and corruption, adding that the situation is unlikely to improve much in the short term due to insufficient funds, Russian and Western media reported. According to acting Procurator-General Oleg Gaidanov, recorded crimes increased 5.2% in the first nine months of 1995, but the number of murders, rapes, and cases of grievous bodily harm declined, Interfax reported on 12 October. -- Penny Morvant POLTORANIN: DUMA LACKS POWER TO HALT OSTANKINO LIQUIDATION. In a 14 October interview with Radio Mayak, Duma Press and Information Chairman Mikhail Poltoranin admitted that while parliament might "squeal" and "get indignant," it ultimately lacks the power to block a recent presidential decree ordering the liquidation of the Ostankino television and radio company (see OMRI Daily Digest, 9 October 1995). Some Duma deputies, including Igor Yakovenko, have alleged that the decree was designed to eliminate evidence of financial abuses committed by former Ostankino executives who now work for Russian Public TV (ORT). The Duma sent the results of an audit of Ostankino's finances to the Procurator- General's Office on 11 October. The Ostankino employees' union said it will fight the decree in court, on the grounds that federal law requires three months' notice of plans to liquidate a company, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 12 October. -- Laura Belin TRUST IN GOVERNMENT IN NIZHNII NOVGOROD? According to a VCIOM poll conducted in the city of Nizhnii Novgorod, 40% of respondents believe that the government can lead Russia out of its present crisis. Other candidates for such a role included big industrialists (22% trust), the nation's young people (20%), and a new president (14%). Only 10% of respondents said they trust the army and communists for such a role and only 4% trust the national-patriotic movement. -- Peter Rutland ADYGEYAN PRESIDENT RESTORES PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS. Aslan Dzharimov, president of the Adygeyan Republic, issued a decree on 13 October that sets the republic's legislative elections for December 1995 instead of 1997, ITAR-TASS reported. Dzharimov said the Adygeyan parliament's decision earlier this year to postpone elections until 1997 violated the republic's constitution. -- Anna Paretskaya RUSSIA AND CUBA SIGN ECONOMIC AGREEMENTS. Aiming to reinvigorate Russian-Cuban ties, which have stagnated since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the two countries signed eight economic protocols on 15 October, Russian and Western agencies reported. In addition to signing a multi-year sugar-for-oil barter deal (see OMRI Daily Digest, 13 October 1995), the two countries agreed to move forward with the completion of the Juragua nuclear power station, a project the U.S. Congress has criticized. Although Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets told journalists that Russian-Cuban relations would now be based on economic cooperation, during his visit he discussed "military-technical" cooperation with Cuban Defense Minister Raul Castro and also visited the Russian electronic intelligence base at Lourdes, a facility he referred to as "important" for Russian interests. -- Scott Parrish ZHIRINOVSKY AND SADDAM HUSSEIN DISCUSS WORLD POLITICS. While on a visit to Baghdad, Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky spent an evening with Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, drinking beer, eating fish, and discussing international politics, Russian TV reported on 15 October. Zhirinovsky bragged later to journalists that he had dominated the conversation, speaking for four hours, while Hussein only talked for one. Zhirinovsky has frequently expressed admiration for Hussein and his policies. -- Scott Parrish KOREAN TOURIST BUS HIJACKED IN MOSCOW. A busload of South Korean tourists was held hostage in Moscow by an unidentified gunman for nearly 10 hours before Russian commandos stormed the bus early on 15 October, killing the assailant. The drama began early the previous evening as the tourists boarded the bus near St. Basil's cathedral on Red Square. The hijacker, armed with a pistol, demanded $10 million for the safe release of the 25 South Koreans, their Russian guide and bus driver, Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported. Negotiators secured the release of most of the hostages by handing over $1 million before the Alpha anti-terrorist unit went into action. None of the hostages was injured. The incident--the latest in a series of hostage-takings in Russia--is likely to prompt a review of security procedures for VIPs because of its proximity to the Kremlin. -- Penny Morvant DUMA VOTES TO RAISE PENSIONS. On 13 October, the Duma passed in three readings a bill raising the minimum pension from 55,000 to 57,750 rubles ($13) a month as of 1 November, ITAR-TASS reported. Pensions would be raised again on 1 December to 60,500 and on 1 January 1996 to 63,250 rubles. If passed, the law would require an additional expenditure of 8 trillion rubles ($1.8 billion) not included in the 1995 budget. At a meeting with representatives of the Union of Pensioners the following day, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin said the government would take steps to protect pensioners' living standards. -- Penny Morvant CHERNOMYRDIN ON SOCIAL ISSUES, PAYMENTS CRISIS. In a 13 October speech to the Duma on the state of the economy, Prime Minister Chernomyrdin said that the population's real incomes had fallen by 12% in the first nine months of this year and that 40 million Russians are living in families with an average per capita income below the subsistence minimum, ITAR-TASS reported. He attributed the fall in living standards to the failure to meet inflation targets. With regard to the problem of enterprise debts, he said that the cabinet will introduce a plan that will oblige firms to hand over shares to creditors in exchange for debt cancellation. Military and educational institutions will be exempt. Meanwhile, Duma Social Policy Committee Chairman Sergei Kalashnikov complained that the 1996 draft budget projects a cut in social spending in real terms. -- Penny Morvant TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA ISLAMIC THEOLOGIAN STILL MISSING IN UZBEKISTAN. Russian Muslim organizations are circulating an appeal to find the whereabouts of Abduvali Mirzaev, an Uzbek cleric, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 October. Mirzaev was apparently on his way to Moscow to attend a theological conference on 29 August when he was detained by security officials at the Tashkent airport. Since then, repeated efforts by relatives and others to find him have met with no success. -- Roger Kangas UZBEKISTAN SIGNS MILITARY AND SECURITY MEMORANDUM WITH U.S. Uzbek Defense Minister Rustam Akhmedov and U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry signed an agreement in Washington, DC that formalizes bilateral ties as outlined by NATO's Partnership for Peace program, VOA reported on 13 October. In addition, Akhmedov suggested that a battalion of Uzbek troops be used in future UN peacekeeping missions. -- Roger Kangas RUSSIA READY TO POLICE SINO-KAZAKHSTANI BORDER. Russia is ready to set up a common defense unit to police the porous border between China and Kazakhstan, AFP reported on October 13. General Vladislav Prokhoda, the head of the Russo-Kazakhstani cooperation unit in Almaty set up under the bilateral agreement on mutual defense outside the CIS, said that the 1,000 km Sino-Kazakhstani border is patrolled by about 15,000 Russian and Kazakh soldiers. -- Bhavna Dave KAZAKHSTAN'S GRAIN OUTPUT RECORD LOW. Kazakhstan's grain output of 10 million tons this year--its lowest for the last 30 years--rules out grain export, according to Kazakhstani Agriculture Minister Zhanibek Karibzhanov, Interfax reported on 12 October. Kazakhstan's sharply lowered output may aggravate the grain crisis in CIS as Russia's grain output of 65 million tons is also its lowest in 30 years. Kazakhstan supplied over 1 million tons of grain to Russia in 1994. -- Bhavna Dave FORMER GEORGIAN SECURITY CHIEF ACCUSES RUSSIA OF WOODRUFF MURDER. Speaking at a news conference in Tbilisi on 13 October, former Georgian Security Service head Irakli Batiashvili claimed that the murder of CIA operative Fred Woodruff near Tbilisi in August 1993 had been instigated by the Russian intelligence service, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. A teenage Georgian serviceman arrested and charged with the killing stated at his trial in early 1994 that he had only confessed under torture to shooting at random at the car in which Woodruff was traveling; he was sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment. -- Liz Fuller CIS BALTIN ON BLACK SEA FLEET MORATORIUM. Black Sea Fleet Commander Admiral Eduard Baltin welcomed a 6 October moratorium on the unilateral division of fleet forces, assets, and infrastructure passed by the Russian State Duma, Radio Mayak reported on 14 October. He noted the role that Konstantin Zatulin, chairman of the Duma Committee for CIS Affairs, played in producing the moratorium. Zatulin has distinguished himself as a hardliner in his dealings with CIS states and was vocal in criticizing Kiev when it abolished the Crimean presidency and suspended its constitution in March. Decisions by the Russian Duma do not have legal force in Ukraine. -- Ustina Markus [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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