|When in doubt, tell the truth. - Mark Twain|
No. 208, Part I, 25 October 1995
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ On Friday, 27 October, OMRI will publish a Russian Election Survey -- the first in its series of special reports on important developments. Distributed as a supplement to the OMRI Daily Digest, the Russian Election Survey will appear twice a week and contain the latest news about developments in the election campaign in Russia. Future supplements will also focus on important events in Eastern European countries. +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ 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 MILLIONS OF CITIZENS MAY BE PREVENTED FROM VOTING. As many as 7-10 million citizens may not be able to exercise their right to vote because they do not live at the address listed on their residence permit, according to Nezavisimaya gazeta on 24 October. Voting rolls are based on a person's official residence. Many citizens who rent apartments are not officially registered, because the landlords do not want to pay taxes on the rent. In other cases, residents cannot afford to pay the fees required to register when they acquire a new residence. In principle, such voters may travel to the place they are registered to vote, but, in practice, few are likely to bother to do so. -- Robert Orttung RYZHKOV DENOUNCES YELTSIN STATEMENT. President Boris Yeltsin's statements at his 19 October press conference about the need to prevent a Communist victory have "practically unleashed total war against the Communist and national-patriotic electoral blocs," former Soviet Prime Minister and now leader of the Power to the People bloc Nikolai Ryzhkov wrote in Pravda on 24 October. Ryzhkov complained that by supporting the parties Our Home is Russia, Yabloko, the Bloc of Ivan Rybkin, and the Congress of Russian Communities, Yeltsin had "practically divided society in two." By presenting himself as a victim of the authorities, Ryzhkov hopes to employ the same strategy that gained Yeltsin and Vladimir Zhirinovsky much of their initial support. -- Robert Orttung RYABOV CRITICIZED FOR TAKING YELTSIN'S SIDE. ITAR-TASS commentator Tamara Zamyatina criticized Central Electoral Commission (TsIK) Chairman Nikolai Ryabov on 24 October for defending President Yeltsin's recent comments concerning a possible Communist victory in the parliamentary elections. Ryabov said the president is not subject to the electoral law article prohibiting employees of federal bodies from campaigning for or against political parties. Zamyatina said Ryabov too often presents his own opinions in the name of the TsIK, giving rise to doubts about his objectivity. She added that the TsIK must adhere to both the letter and the spirit of the electoral law, or else the election results will not be trusted. Although ITAR-TASS is a state-owned news agency, Zamyatina has published controversial commentaries in the past, including a 1994 critique of Yeltsin's top bodyguard Aleksandr Korzhakov. -- Laura Belin SKURATOV WINS CONFIRMATION AS PROCURATOR-GENERAL. Ending months of wrangling, the Federation Council voted on 24 October by 139-0 to approve President Boris Yeltsin's nomination of legal expert Yurii Skuratov to the post of procurator-general, Russian and Western agencies reported. Yeltsin had made every effort to find a replacement for Aleksei Ilyushenko who was acceptable to both the executive and the legislature, so the outcome of the vote was never in doubt. One of Skuratov's first tasks will be to choose a new team. According to NTV, he has a list of people he would like to see return to the Procurator's Office, including former Moscow Procurator Gennadii Ponomarev, who was dismissed in the wake of the murder of television star Vladislav Listev. -- Penny Morvant TsIK HALTS REGIONAL COMMISSION'S DECISION. The Central Electoral Commission (TsIK) ordered the electoral commission of Kalmykiya to register Vladimir Kolesnik as a candidate for the Duma elections from the Kalmykiya single-member district, ITAR-TASS and Russian Public TV (ORT) reported on 24 October. Recently Kolesnik appealed to the TsIK after the regional electoral commission claimed that he failed to acquire enough signatures to register. TsIK Chairman Nikolai Ryabov warned that the election campaign in Kalmykiya could be suspended if further procedural violations are discovered, ITAR-TASS reported on October 23. The two commissions have already clashed over the 15 October presidential elections in Kalmykiya, which the TsIK considers invalid. -- Anna Paretskaya RUSSIAN MILITARY ATTACK INGUSH AIRPORT. One civilian was killed and six wounded on 24 October when Russian special forces landed from two military helicopters at Sleptsovskaya airport in Ingushetiya and opened fire on passengers and airport staff, Russian media reported. NTV quoted an unnamed Defense Ministry official as saying the attack was launched in response to an erroneous report that forces loyal to Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev had occupied the airport. Ingush Vice President Boris Agapov condemned the military's actions, Interfax reported. -- Liz Fuller ZAVGAEV CONFIRMED AS NEW CHECHEN PRIME MINISTER. Former Chechen-Ingush Supreme Soviet Chairman Doku Zavgaev was confirmed as Chechen prime minister at sessions of the Committee for National Reconciliation and the Chechen Supreme Soviet on 24 October, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. The head of the Russian delegation to the Chechen peace talks, Vyacheslav Mikhailov, said the change of leadership would expedite the peace process; Zavgaev himself told Radio Rossii that his top priority is to achieve a cessation of hostilities and political stability. Supporters of Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev staged a demonstration in Grozny to protest Zavgaev's appointment which was forcibly dispersed by police at the orders of Grozny Mayor Beslan Gantemirov, according to Interfax. -- Liz Fuller RYBKIN BLASTS NATO EXPANSION PLANS. At the opening session of a Russian- French parliamentary commission in Paris, Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin said that plans to expand NATO eastwards are "a violation of international disarmament accords," Russian and Western agencies reported on 24 October. Rybkin expressed outrage over talk of deploying NATO nuclear weapons in Eastern Europe, when Russia has spent billions of dollars dismantling nuclear missiles in accordance with arms control agreements. While criticizing U.S. policy, Rybkin praised French leaders for their understanding of Russian concerns. -- Scott Parrish REACTION TO YELTSIN-CLINTON SUMMIT. While Russian state-run media lauded the results of the Yeltsin-Clinton meeting in Hyde Park, New York, as a "breakthrough," independent media expressed skepticism. Russian Public TV (ORT) showed Yeltsin affirming the "strength" of Russian-U.S. partnership, but the independent station NTV termed the meeting "warm, but empty." The NTV report criticized the vague agreement on Bosnia and noted that Yeltsin and Clinton had not even mentioned NATO, as if its possible expansion were not a major problem in Russian-U.S. relations. Izvestiya and Komsomolskaya pravda expressed doubts that the meeting would produce any substantive improvement in Russian-U.S. ties. -- Scott Parrish FEDERATION COUNCIL CONDEMNS U.S. EMBARGO ON CUBA. The Federation Council passed a resolution condemning the recent passage of a bill in the U.S. Senate, aimed at tightening the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba, Russian and Western agencies reported on 24 October. Among other provisions, the Senate bill would cut aid to Russia in retaliation for trade and investment in Cuba. The Federation Council resolution said the Senate bill violates international law and accepted international trade practices, adding that Russia would continue to develop economic ties with Cuba despite U.S. sanctions. -- Scott Parrish DUMA ECONOMICS COMMITTEE ON SHADOW ECONOMY. According to the Duma Committee on Economic Policy, retail trade turnover in the shadow economy amounted to 88 trillion rubles ($20 billion) in 1994 out of total turnover of 216 trillion, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 October. The committee estimates that this year the government will lose 46.7 trillion rubles in value-added tax as a result of undeclared trading. -- Penny Morvant LIVING STANDARDS: HALF EMPTY OR HALF FULL? In a Vox Populi opinion service poll conducted last month, 3% of respondents considered themselves to be well-off, 37% said they did not live badly "but have to work day and night," while 52% said they had difficulty making ends meet and 8% that they lived in poverty. Boris Grushin, a Vox Populi representative, interpreted the fact that 40% of respondents say they have adapted to the new conditions as a positive phenomenon that makes any return to the egalitarianism of the past extremely unlikely, Russian TV reported on 24 October. Meanwhile, the economist Pavel Bunich argues that Russians' living standards have fallen to an unacceptably low level. According to Radio Rossii, Bunich noted that so far this year average real incomes have declined by 12% and the real incomes of state sector employees by 24-30%. -- Penny Morvant TARIFF BARRIER AGAINST RUSSIAN ROLLED STEEL. The results of an investigation conducted by the European Association of Steel Producers prompted the EU to introduce a 43% custom duty on rolled steel imported from Russia, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 October. That decision would be reconsidered in four months. Russian exports of rolled steel to the EU increased from 924 tons in 1990 to 11,582 tons in the period from January 1993 to April 1994. The experts' conclusion that the price of Russian rolled steel is too low was based on comparison with the price of analogous steel exports from Brazil. Russia is not the only source of cheap steel: European producers are also threatened by imports from South Korea, Japan, Brazil, Poland, and the Czech Republic. -- Natalia Gurushina SUPPORT FOR SMALL BUSINESS. The Russian government has announced a new program to support small business in 1996, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 24 October. Under the program, 707 billion rubles ($157 million) will be channeled through the newly created Federal Fund for Small Business Support, and a further 250 billion rubles through a network of regional funds. Government policy will focus on issuing guarantees for loans from commercial banks and will move away from direct subsidies for small businesses. -- Natalia Gurushina GOVERNMENT DEBATES MEASURES TO HELP BANKS. In a 24 October interview on Russian Public TV (ORT), presidential economic aide Aleksandr Livshits denied reports that First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais had ordered the Central Bank of Russia to reduce the level of commercial banks' mandatory reserves. However, Livshits noted that recent economic developments, such as the introduction of the ruble corridor, put many Russian banks in a difficult situation. He argued that the banks deserve support from the Central Bank and said he favors easing the tax burden on them. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA RUN-UP TO ELECTIONS IN AZERBAIJAN . . . Representatives of the Musavat, National Independence, and Independent Democratic parties of Azerbaijan have protested arbitrary refusals by the Central Electoral Commission to register candidates and restrictions on access to the media, according to Turan. Musavat party spokesman Arif Hadjiev accused the country's authorities of launching a psychological terror campaign against the electorate. On 24 October, AFP quoted the head of the OSCE monitoring mission in Baku as saying that the authorities had agreed to reassess the petitions of parties and candidates barred from participating in the elections. -- Liz Fuller . . . AND IN GEORGIA. The Georgian Central Electoral Commission has refused to register four former cabinet ministers including Prime Minister Otar Patsatsia and deputy Prime Minister Tamaz Nadareishvili as election candidates, Ekho Moskvy reported. As the Georgian election law precludes the candidacy of government ministers, all four had submitted their resignations, but those have not yet been accepted by the existing parliament. Over 2,100 candidates have been registered to run in 85 single-mandate constituencies, the Sakinform news agency reported on 18 October. -- Liz Fuller GEORGIAN-ABKHAZ TALKS IN JEOPARDY. Abkhaz representatives refused to attend a further round of peace talks with Georgia scheduled to open in Moscow on 24 October because of a Russian naval blockade of the Abkhaz port of Sukhumi, Reuters reported. Russian Public TV (ORT), however, quoted a spokesman for the Russian maritime border guard as denying that such a blockade had been imposed. -- Liz Fuller TURKMENISTAN, BELARUS BARTER. Turkmenistan has agreed to supply 2 billion cubic meters of gas to Belarus in exchange for potatoes, tractors, and other consumer durables, Interfax reported on 23 October. According to Turkmenistan's ambassador to Belarus, an agreement has already been signed to provide 100,000 tons of potatoes to Turkmenistan. Ashgabat's debts to other CIS countries is estimated at around $2 billion; roughly half of that sum represents rescheduled debts owed by Ukraine alone. -- Lowell Bezanis LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY NOMINATES AKAEV FOR PRESIDENT. Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev's nomination was forwarded by the Kyrgyz Legislative Assembly on 23 October, according to a Kyrgyz Radio broadcast monitored by the BBC. The report also listed five other candidates for the post of president: Ata-Meken Party Chairman Omurbek Tekebaev, Communist Party leader Absamat Masaliev, the Adilet public movement head Yuruslan Toychubekov and the recently dismissed former director of the Kadamzhay antimony plant in southern Kyrgyzstan, Mamat Aybalaev. Medetkan Sherimkulov has already registered as a candidate. The election is scheduled for 24 December. -- 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. 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