|The only certainty is that nothing is certain. - Pliny the Elder|
No. 205, Part I, 20 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. 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 YELTSIN BACKTRACKS ON KOZYREV. As he boarded a plane on 20 October to depart for an official visit to France and the U.S., President Boris Yeltsin hinted that he might retain Andrei Kozyrev as foreign minister, international agencies reported. Yeltsin suggested that Kozyrev needs a deputy to assume the burden of his administrative duties. Yeltsin did not explicitly reverse his 19 October statement that he intended to sack Kozyrev, however, and his intentions in this regard remain unclear. He may simply be using his own foreign minister as a bargaining chip to pressure NATO and the U.S. into accommodating Russian demands on issues such as Bosnia, NATO expansion, and CFE treaty revision. -- Scott Parrish YELTSIN COMMENTS ON ELECTIONS. President Yeltsin said at a press conference that he is not worried about the participation of the military in the Duma campaign because he believes that the servicemen support him. However, he warned that Congress of Russian Communities' (KRO) co-leader Lt. Gen. (ret.) Aleksandr Lebed is "too eager for a fight." Yeltsin praised KRO party leader Yurii Skokov as a "smart man" who is qualified to serve as prime minister, NTV reported. The president said that while he still supports Our Home is Russia, he also backs other blocs, naming Grigorii Yavlinskii's Yabloko in particular, ITAR- TASS reported. He stressed the need to campaign against the Communists, saying candidates who advocate overthrowing the system should be denied registration. Yeltsin said the fact that the elections will be partially based on party lists is a "mistake." -- Robert Orttung SKOKOV DISTANCES HIMSELF FROM YELTSIN. The KRO press service dismissed attempts to paint the party as a "tame opposition" that coordinates its activities with President Yeltsin, Interfax reported 19 October. The party believes, rather, that the government's policies are "suicidal for Russia." The press service also insisted that Yurii Skokov's current trip to China is neither "secret" nor connected to the Kremlin in any way. -- Robert Orttung DUMA AMENDS LAW ON PROCURATOR-GENERAL. The Duma has voted to alter the procedure for appointing the procurator-general, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 October. The draft amendment requires the president to put forward a new candidate within 30 days if his initial nominee is rejected. Current law does not specify the procedure to be followed if the upper house fails to approve the president's nominee--a situation that enabled Aleksei Ilyushenko to serve as acting procurator-general for more than 18 months. Following Ilyushenko's departure on 8 October, Yeltsin nominated Yurii Skuratov as the new procurator-general. His appointment will be considered by the Federation Council on 24 October. -- Penny Morvant JUDICIAL CHAMBER SAYS NEVZOROV'S SHOW VIOLATED PRISONERS' RIGHTS. The president's Judicial Chamber on Information Disputes reprimanded Aleksandr Nevzorov and advised Russian Public TV (ORT) to cancel Nevzorov's controversial news magazine "Wild Field" on the grounds that a 30 June show depicting lesbianism in a women's prison violated prisoners' constitutional right to privacy, Russian media reported on 20 October. Although the chamber lacks the power to enforce its rulings, commentators hailed the decision as the first time in Russian history a court had moved to protect prisoners' privacy rights. Nevzorov's last show, "600 Seconds," was canceled after it sided with Yeltsin's hard- line opponents in parliament in October 1993. -- Laura Belin CENTRAL TV BROADCASTS SWITCHED OFF IN TUVA. The main television center in Tuva has suspended all Russian TV and Russian Public TV broadcasts except for news programs, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 October. The center is owed 4 billion rubles ($900,000) by central television, and its workers, who have not been paid for six months, decided to impose a "blockade." Earlier this month, Yeltsin issued a decree forbidding unsanctioned cutoffs of national television networks (see OMRI Daily Digest, 9 October 1995). -- Laura Belin TENSION IN TATARSTAN OVER STATUS OF MUHAMMDIYA MEDRESSE. On 16 October, an estimated 100 Muslim theological students led by Tatarstan's Mufti Gabdullah Galiulla occupied the former Muhammdiya medresse in Kazan, Interfax reported. The building is presently owned by the Education Ministry and is used for secular purposes. The mufti wants the building to be used as an Islamic university. Staff driven out of the building issued an appeal warning of a "new Chechnya" and claiming that they had been virtually "held hostage by militant nationalists," Interfax reported on 18 October. An estimated 500 people participated in a rally held in Kazan to protest the seizure. -- Lowell Bezanis GRACHEV, CHERNOMYRDIN CLASH OVER CHECHEN PEACE TALKS. At a 19 October government meeting, Defense Minister Pavel Grachev cast doubts on the ongoing Chechen peace talks which he said would lead to a resumption of hostilities. He was interrupted by Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin who insisted that everything possible should be done to achieve a peaceful settlement of the conflict, Interfax and NTV reported. Also on 19 October, Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev's representative on the commission monitoring compliance with the 30 July ceasefire agreement warned that if the Russian military resumed hostilities the Chechen side would extend the fighting to Russian territory. -- Liz Fuller MILITARY CANNOT PAY FOR CHECHEN OPERATIONS. The Defense Ministry lacks the money to pay for its operations in Chechnya, according to the General Staff's top financial officer, Col. Gen. Vasilii Vorobev. He told ITAR-TASS on 19 October that the ministry had already spent over 2 trillion rubles ($4.4 billion) and that the troops in Chechnya owe suppliers more than 100 billion rubles ($2.2 million) for food, fuel, and utilities. Lt. Gen. Aleksandr Naumov, who heads the army troops in Chechnya, said that "a practically bankrupt state cannot finance an army in Chechnya, which is daily suffering losses from enemy attacks." -- Doug Clarke GRACHEV SUPPORTS START-2 RATIFICATION. Defense Minister Pavel Grachev met with Duma deputies to discuss the ratification of the START-2 treaty, Interfax reported on 19 October. Grachev confirmed his support for the treaty's ratification, although he expressed concern about insufficient funding for the implementation of the START-1 (already ratified) and START-2 treaties, and possible violation of the ABM treaty by the U.S. Duma Defense Committee Chairman Sergei Yushenkov told Interfax that in his opinion, "the Duma is unlikely to ratify the START- 2 treaty in the near future." -- Constantine Dmitriev RUSSIA STILL ON COMPUTER BLACKLIST. Russia is surprised that the U.S. has placed restrictions on it in the new computer export policy recently announced by President Bill Clinton. Foreign Ministry spokesman Grigorii Karasin said on 19 October that this approach contradicts earlier U.S. vows to "clear the ruins of the Cold War," ITAR-TASS reported. The new policy created four country groups, running from Group A (no restrictions) to Group D (a virtual embargo on computer export). Russia and the other countries of the former Soviet Union, as well as Romania and Bulgaria, were put into Group C. The Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia were placed into Group B. Karasin noted that Russia was the only member of the "New Forum," the export control body created to replace CoCom, that was on the "discriminating list." He warned that Russia will be forced to reconsider its cooperation with the U.S. in high-technology fields unless the rules are changed. -- Doug Clarke PRIVATE SECTOR GROWING. The Institute of Economic Analysis reported on 19 October that 36% of the working population are employed in the private sector, three times as many as in 1992. ITAR-TASS also cited official statistics showing that 45% of Russians' total money income in the first half of 1995 came from property and entrepreneurial activities; less than 40% came from wages; and 16% from social benefits. However, the report cautioned that wage income is underestimated because of unreported earnings in the second economy. Meanwhile, the Economics Ministry predicted that real disposable income will decline this year by 8% compared to 1994. -- Penny Morvant BUDGET OPTIMISM . . . At a five-hour government meeting on 19 October, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin expressed confidence that a compromise will be reached with the Duma over the 1996 budget, NTV and ITAR-TASS reported the same day. Chernomydrin claimed that 1995 will be the first year in history that Russia lived within its budget. Finance Minister Vladimir Panskov reported that the budget deficit for 1995 looks like it will be 58 trillion rubles ($12.9 billion or 3.8% of GDP) instead of the earlier anticipated 73 trillion rubles (5.5% of GDP). However, international loans raised only 28 trillion rubles ($6.2 billion) instead of the planned 43 trillion. -- Peter Rutland . . . AMID WORRIES OVER THE PRICE OF BREAD. At the 19 October government meeting, Yakov Urinson, the deputy minister of economics, said that the government is "racking its brains" trying to find a way to buy grain to prevent the price of bread from rising, NTV reported. Russia may need to import 10 million tons of grain, due to a harvest of only 65 million tons, down from 81 million in 1994. ITAR-TASS reported that the price of grain on the London market, currently $173 per ton, may go up to $210 by the end of 1995 due to low harvests in various countries. -- Peter Rutland CHICKENS FOR METAL The main Russian export to the U.S. is aluminum and the main import is chicken parts. In the first half of 1995, Russia exported 237,000 tons of aluminum (worth $470 million) to the U.S. and imported 280,000 tons of chicken (worth $223 million) in return, according to figures provided at a Russian-U.S. trade seminar in Moscow, Vechernyaya Moskva reported on 18 October. In 1994, Russian exports to the U.S. totaled $3,694 million and imports $2,053 million. -- Peter Rutland RUSSIA IS THE MAJOR CREDITOR OF THE CIS. Russia is owed $9 billion by the former Soviet republics, incuding $3.2 billion in unpaid energy billsSegodnya reported on 19 October. Russia in turn owes them $1.2 billion. Deputy Finance Minister Andrei Kazmin suggested that if these countries obtain IMF credits they should use them to pay off their debts to Russia. -- Natalia Gurushina LIFE IMITATES ART. The actors and crew filming the Russo-French fco- production "Prisoner of the Caucasus" are being held to ransom by racketeers, Ekho Moskvy reported on19 October. Director Sergei Bodrov is filming a modern version of Lev Tolstoi's short story near Derbent in Dagestan, linking the tale to the war in neighboring Chechnya. Producer Boris Geller, currently in America, may be asked to raise money to free the film crew. -- Peter Rutland TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA AZERBAIJANI JOURNALISTS SENTENCED. On 19 October, a Baku court sentenced five journalists connected with the samizdat satirical journal Chesme to prison sentences ranging from 25 years for insulting the honor of Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev, Turan and Ekho Moskvy reported. -- Liz Fuller NEW CREDITS FOR ARMENIA? The Armenian government anticipates that International Development Agency mediation will result in the country receiving $150 million worth in new credits from international finance organizations over the next two years, Noyan Tapan reported on 19 October, quoting Finance Minister Levon Barkhudaryan. Of that sum, $60 million will be spent on reforming education and health facilities. Speaking at a news conference in Yerevan on 18 October, U.S. presidential representative Ian Kalitski gave a positive assessment of Armenia's macroeconomic reforms but advocated speeding up privatization, according to Interfax. -- Liz Fuller AKAEV OPPONENTS TO STAGE PROTEST. Opponents of Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev are planning to stage a protest on 27 October, the last day of Akaev's term in office, according to a 14 October article in Slovo Kyrgyzstana, cited by Kabar radio. The protest is likely to be led by the former speaker of the old Kyrgyz parliament, Medetkan Sherimkulov, who has accused Akaev of violating the constitution by holding presidential elections in December. The Human Rights Movement of Kyrgyzstan nominated Sherimkulov as its candidate for presidential elections on 10 October. The protesters plan to "surround the government house, block its entrances, and prevent the president from entering his office," according to the radio. -- Bhavna Dave UNHCR OPENS OFFICES IN KYRGYZSTAN. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is opening two new offices in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek and the southern Kyrgyz city of Osh on the Tajik border, where a large number of refugees from Tajikistan are settling, Kyrgyz radio reported on 17 October. The radio reported that UNHCR plans to open offices in Ashgabat and Almaty in the near future. -- Bhavna Dave [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. To receive the OMRI Daily Digest by mail or fax, please direct inquiries to OMRI Publications, Na Strzi 63, 140 62 Prague 4, Czech Republic; or electronically to OMRIPUB@OMRI.CZ Tel.: (42-2) 6114 2114; fax: (42-2) 426 396 Please note that there is a new procedure for obtaining permission to reprint or redistribute the OMRI Daily Digest. 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