|Experience is in the fingers and head. The heart is inexperienced. - Henry David Thoreau|
No. 202, Part I, 17 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 FILATOV WARNS OF OPPOSITION VICTORY. The victory of anti-reformist parties in the December Duma elections could trigger a civil war because they want to amend the constitution and redistribute property, Presidential Chief of Staff Sergei Filatov told the heads of Russian state-run television and radio companies, according to Interfax on 16 October. Filatov expressed concern about the falling popularity of the democratic leaders and their inability to unite. According to a Public Opinion Foundation poll, if the elections were held "next Sunday," the Communist Party would receive 13.4% of the vote and the Congress of Russian Communities 5.4%. The pro-reform Yabloko would get 6.7%. Those were the only three parties that cleared the 5% floor in the poll, which would entitle them to share half the Duma seats in the December election. -- Robert Orttung EXTREMISTS MEET NEAR MOSCOW. Aleksandr Barkashov's extremist Russian National Unity party held a conference in the Moscow suburbs on 15 October, NTV and Russian TV reported. Delegates celebrated their defense of the Russian White House and attack on Ostankino during the 3-4 October 1993 crisis with newly-minted medals. Speakers emphasized the growing strength of the movement at the local level and its success in instilling military-patriotic values in young people. The organization will not compete in the Duma elections but will nominate Barkashov for president next year. -- Robert Orttung YELTSIN NOMINATES NEW PROCURATOR-GENERAL. President Boris Yeltsin asked the Federation Council on 16 October to approve his nomination of the relatively unknown Yurii Skuratov to the post of procurator-general, ITAR-TASS reported. Skuratov, 43, graduated from the Sverdlovsk law institute in 1973 and has been working as the director of an institute attached to the Procurator-General's Office. Yeltsin urged the Federation Council, which twice refused to approve the candidacy of Skuratov's predecessor Aleksei Ilyushenko, to promptly confirm the appointment. Viktor Ilyukhin, the head of the Duma Security Committee and generally a Yeltsin opponent, praised the decision, noting that Skuratov is experienced, honest, and "not entangled in Moscow intrigues." -- Penny Morvant TENSIONS, CONFUSION IN GROZNY. Russian federal officials in Grozny intend to launch an investigation into the 15 October air raids on two Chechen villages for which the Russian Defense Ministry has denied responsibility, NTV reported. On 16 October, Russian presidential envoy Oleg Lobov, Nationalities Minister Vyacheslav Mikhailov, and the deputy head of the Russian delegation to the ongoing peace talks, Arkadii Volskii, returned to Grozny to resume negotiations with Chechen representatives that will be held outside Grozny because the situation in the town is so tense, according to Interfax. In an interview with Interfax, former Chechen parliament Speaker Yusup Soslambekov said Moscow is unable or unwilling to resolve the Chechen conflict. He condemned as counterproductive the renewed involvement in Chechen politics of former Russian parliament speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov and the reconvening of the Chechen-Ingush Supreme Soviet. A Russian atomic energy official has refuted rebel leader Shamil Basaev's claims that he possesses five containers of dangerous radioactive material, Radio Mayak reported. -- Liz Fuller CHUVASH PRESIDENT SUES OPPOSITION NEWSPAPER. Chuvash President Nikolai Fedorov is suing the hard-line newspaper Sovetskaya Chuvashiya for 10 million rubles ($2,200) in damages for publishing what he called "canards, lies, and utter nonsense," ITAR-TASS reported on 16 October. The paper printed a series of highly critical readers' opinions in September, including one that alleged: "People live in poverty and go hungry, while Fedorov spends all the money on fireworks and holidays." The State Soviet of Chuvashiya has called a referendum on abolishing the institution of the presidency in the republic for 17 December, the same day as nationwide parliamentary elections. Fedorov was elected president in December 1993 with less than 30% of the vote. His lawsuit sends a clear message to the newspaper to refrain from sharp criticism during the upcoming campaign. -- Laura Belin PRESIDENT OF KALMYKIYA RE-ELECTED. Kirsan Ilyumzhinov was re-elected president of Kalmykiya for seven years on 15 October, Russian media reported the next day. Running unopposed, Ilyumzhinov received 85% of the vote. Aleksandr Veshnyakov, the executive secretary of the federal Central Electoral Commission, told ITAR-TASS that the Kalmykian electoral law does not correspond with federal legislation and may be reviewed by the Constitutional Court. According to Yurii Oglaev of the opposition People's Party of Kalmykiya, Ilyumzhinov called the elections two and a half years before his term expired in order to extend his presidential immunity and avoid being prosecuted for his suspected involvement in corrupt financial dealings, NTV reported. -- Anna Paretskaya OPPOSITION BLASTS GOVERNMENT FOREIGN POLICY. Divergent views on how Russian foreign policy should develop were revealed at a round-table discussion sponsored by the Moscow Carnegie Center on 16 October, Western and Russian agencies reported. Representatives of several political parties criticized Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev. Andranik Migranyan, a former Yeltsin adviser now affiliated with the My Fatherland electoral bloc, accused him of driving Russia "into a corner" with an "unrealistically" optimistic policy toward the West. Sergei Baburin, representing the Power to the People bloc, called for accelerated integration of the CIS with a "special role" for Russia, while Vyacheslav Igrunov of Yabloko argued such integration is neither feasible nor desirable. -- Scott Parrish CHINA AND RUSSIA COMPLETE BORDER DEMARCATION. Russia and China have completed the demarcation of their 4,380 km border, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 October. An agreement was signed in Beijing marking the last disputed 54 km segment of their border, bringing to a close the work of the border commission which was created in 1991. The agreement leaves to "future generations" the question of control over three islands in the Amur and Argun rivers which divide Russia and China. During President Yeltsin's upcoming visit to Beijing, Russia and China will sign an agreement on military confidence-building measures along the border. -- Scott Parrish MiG-29s BEST AMERICAN F-16s IN MOCK COMBAT. German Air Force MiG-29 jet fighters were able to beat U.S. Air Force F-16s most of the time in a recent NATO simulated air-to-air combat exercise according to a report in the current edition of the trade journal Aviation Week and Space Technology. The Germans inherited the MiG-29s from the former East German air force. The MiGs are equipped with a helmet-mounted sight which allows the plane's pilot to lock-on to a target and fire his Vympel (AA-11) air-to-air missile by just looking at the target rather than by maneuvering his aircraft to point at it. The report could boost Russian foreign sales of the MiG-29. -- Doug Clarke COURT: PRISONERS SHOULD RECEIVE PENSIONS TOO. The Constitutional Court on 16 October ruled unconstitutional an article of the Law on State Pensions that provides for pension payments to be withheld from prisoners. According to ITAR-TASS, the court said the clause violated the rights of prisoners and their dependents and removed the possibility of deducting money to pay damages to crime victims. A representative of the Pension Fund interviewed on Ekho Moskvy noted, however, that the court decision emphasized that money will be withheld from pension payments to cover the cost of keeping the detainees. The decision is to take effect immediately. -- Penny Morvant CASH PRIVATIZATION TO BE ACCELERATED. The acting head of the State Committee for the Administration of State Property, Alfred Kokh, predicted that sales of state shares will raise the target amount of 9 trillion rubles ($2 billion) for the federal budget in 1995, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 October. So far this year, receipts from privatization amount to 1.5 trillion rubles. In an interview with Izvestiya on 14 October, Kokh rebutted the argument that banks are too illiquid to raise money to buy shares and to offer 3 trillion rubles under the loan/share swap deal. Among the shares to be sold are 9% of the equity in the REES electricity monopoly. -- Peter Rutland CRITICISM FOR BUDGET IN FEDERATION COUNCIL. On 16 October, Federation Council deputies expressed concern that the draft 1996 budget diverged from the principles outlined in President Yeltsin's previous message on budget policy. The upper house decided to start discussing the budget at the same time as the Duma's deliberations rather than wait until the lower house approved a draft. Deputies complained that planned grants to the regions were cut this year in order to keep down the budget deficit when 15 trillion rubles ($3.3 billion) of foreign loans failed to materialize. -- Peter Rutland CONFLICT OVER PRIVATIZATION OF TIMBER FIRM A scandal is brewing around the privatization of the Ust-Ilimsk Forestry Complex (UILK), Business- TASS reported on 16 October. In July, 51% of UILK shares were sold in an investment tender to Polimit, a subsidiary of Menatep bank. Polimit promised to invest $73 million within a month, and another $73 million by the end of the year. On 9 October, the State Committee for the Administration of State Property in Moscow agreed to replace the top managers at UILK with Menatep appointees. The national holding company Roslesprom is appealing the decision in court, on the grounds that Menatep has not yet transferred any funds to the company. -- Peter Rutland TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA OPPOSITION TO BOYCOTT KAZAKHSTANI ELECTIONS? At an 11 October meeting in Almaty chaired by Serikbolsyn Abdildin, the former speaker of the previous Kazakhstani legislature, several opposition groups expressed concerns about participating in what many called the "illegitimate" December parliamentary elections, according to a 12 October Kazakhstani TV report cited by Interfax. The leaders of Azat, the Workers' Movement, and the Social Democratic Party stated that "the complete dependence of the future parliament on the executive structures" will thwart its functioning as a "full-fledged legislative body." Communist Party members who were also present at the meeting said they will contest the elections. -- Bhavna Dave NEARLY 55% OF GEORGIANS SUPPORT SHEVARDNADZE. Recent opinion polls show that nearly 55% of Georgians support the candidacy of Eduard Shevardnadze in the 5 November presidential elections, according to a Kontakt news agency 17 October report cited by the BBC. Former Communist Party leader Dzhumber Patiashvili is running at 17% in the polls and the other four candidates have no more than 3-4% each. As for the parliamentary elections, the Georgian National Democratic Party is in first, followed by Shevardnadze's Union of Citizens of Georgia. -- Irakli Tsereteli AKAEV PROPOSES REFERENDUM ON STATUS OF RUSSIAN. Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev has proposed holding a referendum on 24 December over whether to grant state language status to Russian placing it on an equal footing with Kyrgyz, Kabar reported on 12 October. The referendum would coincide with the presidential elections. At his news conference, Akaev said one of his main tasks upon re-election is "to come closer to Russia and to reduce the emigration of the Russian-speaking population." -- Bhavna Dave UZBEKISTAN TO JOIN CIS CUSTOMS UNION. Uzbekistan will join the CIS Customs Union founded by Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan in January 1995, Radio Mayak reported on 15 October. The move followed Kyrgyzstan's entry into the union last month. Although the details are still to be worked out, the union will ostensibly allow for free trade among the states. Kazakhstan, for example, agreed to lift customs control along the Russian border in September (see OMRI Daily Digest, 21 September 1995). -- Roger Kangas NEW DEFENSE MINISTER APPOINTED IN KAZAKHSTAN. Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbaev has appointed General Alibek Kasymov to the post of defense minister, ITAR-TASS reported on 16 October. The 41-year-old former first deputy minister and chief of the main headquarters has been in the Kazakhstani army since 1992 and earlier served in the Baltic and Transcaucasian military districts. He is a graduate of M.V. Frunze Military Academy. The previous defense minister, General Sagadat Nurmagametov, has become an adviser to the president. The new appointment is the latest development in Nazarbaev's ongoing cabinet reshuffle (see OMRI Daily Digest, 6 October 1995). -- Vyacheslav Kozlov HOUSE RULES IN KYRGYZSTAN. Another complication has arisen for Kyrgyz presidential candidates: they must gather 50,000 signatures that must be collected from each of Kyrgyzstan's seven regions in proportion to that region's share of the total number of voters in the country. The requirement places some candidates at a disadvantage, as they may be well known in their own regions but little known in other areas. The rule was adopted for use in referenda and when it was voted on in the Legislative Assembly it caused "a storm of indignation," according to a Kabar report cited by the BBC. RFE/RL's Kyrgyz service reported that several deputies walked out in protest saying the Central Electoral Commission had exceeded its authority. -- Bruce Pannier [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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