|Much unhappiness has come into the world because of bewilderment and things left unsaid. - Dostoevsky|
No. 209, Part I, 26 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 TRETYAKOV DESCRIBES YELTSIN CAMPAIGN STRATEGY. President Boris Yeltsin's 19 October attack on the Communists was part of a strategy to cement alliances with the "New Russians," those who have benefited from his reforms and fear the consequences of a Communist comeback, Nezavisimaya gazeta Editor in Chief Vitalii Tretyakov wrote on 25 October. However, he argued that Yeltsin will not do much to prevent a Communist victory because such an outcome would guarantee his success in the June 1996 presidential elections. Russian voters would not support Communist control of both branches of government, ensuring a second term for Yeltsin. -- Robert Orttung FEDERATION COUNCIL REJECTS LAW ON ITS FORMATION. The Federation Council rejected a Duma draft of the law on the formation of the upper house by a vote of 10 to 87. The bill, adopted by the Duma on 11 October, called for including elected leaders of the local executive and legislative branches in the upper house. Council members believe that it violates the constitution because it would require holding gubernatorial elections in regions where governors are currently appointed within the next eight months, NTV reported. Council Speaker Vladimir Shumeiko also objected to the Duma version because it did not contain President Yeltsin's proposal that representatives of the federal government sit on the Council as well. More than half of the current Council members, including Shumeiko, do not represent local bodies and are unlikely to have a second term under the proposed rules. The Federation Council is planning to develop its own version of the bill by 14 November. -- Robert Orttung KHAKAMADA DENOUNCES PARTY LIST VOTING. Duma Member Irina Khakamada denounced the Russian electoral law's provision for party-list voting as "idiocy" on 25 October. She told NTV that the system cannot reflect the interests of the voters because they see only the top three names of each party on the ballot. According to a little-noticed study she conducted on the 1993 elections, many of the members of Vladimir Zhirinovsky's party who joined the Duma on the party list had lost in single-members districts, which she said demonstrates that they did not have the confidence of the voters. She added that the current electoral law could cause Russia considerable harm. -- Robert Orttung BRIBE OFFERED TO DEPUTY ON PARAMONOVA VOTE. Russia's Choice Duma Deputy Boris Zolotukhin announced that a member of the Duma staff had offered a $1,500 bribe to independent Duma Deputy Vadim Boiko during the vote on the nomination of Tatyana Paramonova to the post of Central Bank head, Russian TV and ITAR-TASS reported on 25 October. Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin said the matter should be turned over to the procurator-general. Boiko did not comment. -- Robert Orttung ZHIRINOVSKY PROPOSES NEW FEDERAL STRUCTURE. Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky called on President Boris Yeltsin to divide the country into 40 provinces and personally name the governors of each one on 1 January 1996. On 1 March, Zhirinovsky declared, he should announce the "East European Commonwealth with Moscow as the Capital" and invite all governments who want to be part of Russia to join, ITAR-TASS reported. He also called for the creation of a council, including the president, prime minister, power ministers, and party leaders, that would take steps to lead the country out of its crisis. -- Robert Orttung INTERIOR MINISTRY ACCUSES ELECTORAL COMMISSION OF INACCURACY. . . The Interior Ministry has accused the Central Electoral Commission (TsIK) of releasing false information on the criminal records of several candidates running for the Duma, Russian and Western media reported on 25 October. Among 87 people listed by the TsIK as convicted criminals running for parliament, six were imprisoned for their political activities under the Communists for their role in the 1991 and 1993 coup attempts, and several more were confused with criminals bearing the same names. TsIK member Yurii Vedeneev said the commission released the names only to "inform" voters; he admitted that people who have served criminal sentences have the right to run for parliament. Nevertheless, Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky has already dropped 11 out of the 12 candidates from his party who appeared on the TsIK's list, AFP reported. -- Anna Paretskaya . . . AS DUMA REFUSES TO LIMIT IMMUNITY. Also on 25 October, the State Duma refused to pass a bill that would have eliminated the immunity from prosecution granted to candidates who are under arrest, awaiting trial, or who are wanted by police, Ekho Moskvy reported. The Central Electoral Commission's list of 87 Duma candidates with criminal backgrounds does not include people under investigation, who are presumed innocent, according to Russian Public TV (ORT). -- Anna Paretskaya RUSSIAN BOSNIAN PARTICIPATION OUTLINED. As many as 2,000 Russian troops under Russian tactical command might participate in the NATO-led multinational operation to enforce a Bosnian peace accord, Reuters reported on 25 October. Quoting NATO diplomatic sources, the agency reported that the Russian force would probably operate out of Sarajevo and would undertake joint operations alongside French troops. The overall concept of operations would be determined by NATO's top commander in Europe, but Russian generals would do the day-to-day tasking of their troops. France, which is not a member of NATO's integrated military structure, operates under the same principle. The alliance will fix a ceiling of 2,000 Russian troops in a force that could have as many as 60,000 troops. -- Doug Clarke FEDERATION COUNCIL APPROVES LIFTING OF YUGOSLAV SANCTIONS. The Federation Council unanimously approved a bill calling for Russia to gradually, but unilaterally, cease upholding UN sanctions against rump Yugoslavia, Western and Russian agencies reported on 25 October. The Duma had already approved the bill on 6 October, and it will now go to President Yeltsin. He vetoed a similar measure on 14 September. According to Interfax, Federation Council members think that the sanctions are no longer necessary, because rump Yugoslavia "is no longer a participant in the armed conflict in Bosnia," and the sanctions have a negative effect on the Russian economy. -- Constantine Dmitriev KOZYREV AND INTERFAX TO SUE RFE/RL. Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev and the news agency Interfax have decided to sue RFE/RL for broadcasting inaccurate and slanderous information, NTV reported on 25 October. Kozyrev and Interfax claim that RFE/RL reported on 18 October that the minister had visited a major Russian news agency and criticized President Boris Yeltsin's direction of Russian foreign policy. Although Kozyrev did visit Interfax that day, both he and the agency deny that he criticized the president. -- Scott Parrish KOZYREV STRIKES BACK. In a 25 October interview with Russian TV, Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev responded to public criticism from President Yeltsin, saying he would remain in office only if the president treated him as a "comrade-in-arms," not as a "servant." "If people are needed who can be talked down to," said Kozyrev, "then it would really be better to look for a new team." Kozyrev criticized Yeltsin for undermining Russia's international position by "publicly sorting out our relationship" on the eve of "extremely complex negotiations." The embattled foreign minister added that Yeltsin is under "enormous political pressure," to shift Russian foreign policy towards increased confrontation with the West but declared himself willing to remain in office and "continue fighting" if Yeltsin wants to continue the policy of "partnership" with the West. -- Scott Parrish DUMA REPORT RECOMMENDS START II REVISIONS. A confidential report circulating in the Duma recommends that the START II agreement be ratified only if amended, Reuters reported on 25 October, citing the Washington Times. Quoting a cable from the U.S. embassy in Moscow, the paper reported that the Duma document generally supports ratification but only if the treaty is modified to permit Russia to retain some land- based multiple-warhead missiles, which it now bans totally, and only after an agreement with Washington on limiting U.S. development of tactical ballistic missile defenses, which Russian critics claim would violate the 1972 ABM treaty. START II has previously faced severe public criticism in both houses of the Russian Federal Assembly, bringing its ratification into question, despite its endorsement by presidents Yeltsin and Clinton at their 23 October Hyde Park summit. -- Scott Parrish RUSSIA MIGHT HAVE TO IMPORT GRAIN TO FEED ARMY. Russia might have to import grain in the next few months to feed the military, Deputy Agriculture Minister Vladimir Shchebak said on 25 October. Interfax quoted him as saying that the federal grain reserve which is used to feed the military and remote Arctic towns is low because the government has been slow in buying domestic grain. Reuters reported that Russia is expecting its lowest grain harvest in 30 years: about 65 million tons compared with 81.3 million tons in 1994. -- Doug Clarke RADIOACTIVE MATERIAL DUMPED AT MOSCOW AIRPORT. A small lead container full of radioactive substances was discovered in a rubbish bin in the men's toilets at Moscow's international airport Sheremetevo 2, Russian media reported on 25 October. Experts are trying to determine the exact nature of the substances in the container, found by a cleaning lady. -- Penny Morvant NEW MEASURES TO STABILIZE ENERGY SUPPLY. The Federation Council has passed a law on stabilizing the energy supply to the public, organizations, and industrial enterprises, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 October. Under the law, power plants are prohibited from cutting off electricity and heat if customers (including health, education, social and municipal services, the Defense and Interior ministries, and the most important industrial and agricultural enterprises) fail to pay their bills. The law also bans fuel companies from withholding fuel from power plants. In the first nine months of 1995, Russian electrical stations received only 86% of the coal they needed and 81% of the fuel oil, Interfax reported on 23 October. -- Natalia Gurushina REDISCOUNT RATE GOES DOWN. The Central Bank has cut its annual rediscount rate from 180% to 170%, Interfax reported on 24 October. It is the third cut this year and, according to bank officials, it reflects the relative stabilization of Russian industry and falling inflation. Tatyana Paramonova, the acting head of the Central Bank of Russia, said the bank intends to keep the rediscount rate above that of inflation. According to Reuters report on 24 October, some foreign dealers in Russian securities believe that the country still has one of the highest real interest rates in the world. The rediscount rate cut had no impact on Russian financial markets or exchange rates. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA RUSSIA DISPUTES LEGALITY OF "DEAL OF THE CENTURY." Less than one month after the Azerbaijani State Oil Company and the Azerbaijani International Operating Company announced their decision to export "early oil" from the Caspian Sea via both Russia and Georgia, Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev has again affirmed that the original agreement on joint exploitation of three Azerbaijani oil fields is not legally valid, AFP reported on 25 October, quoting ministry spokesman Aleksandr Kodakov. -- Liz Fuller TAJIK JOURNALIST RELEASED IN MOSCOW. A journalist from the Tajik dissident newspaper Charogi Ruz, Mirzo Salimov, has been released by Moscow police, according to a Radio Voice of Free Tajikistan report cited by the BBC. The journalist was apprehended on 13 October by Russian police and the Tajik prosecutor-general wanted to extradite him to face charges in his homeland. The radio broadcast credits Salimov's release to the efforts of the Tajik opposition and international journalists' organizations. -- Bruce Pannier BARCLAYS' CREDIT TO TURKMENISTAN. Barclays Bank is to open a $31 million credit line to Turkmenistan for the purchase of British-manufactured equipment to be used in the construction of a second landing strip at Ashgabat airport, Interfax reported on 25 October. A new landing strip may be in order as the recently constructed air control tower was built without a view of the existing runway. -- Lowell Bezanis IRANIAN-AZERBAIJANI RELATIONS. Commenting on Azerbaijan's recent overtures to improve relations with Iran, Ali Majedi, a senior Iranian Foreign Ministry official, said Tehran and Baku will have good ties as long as Azerbaijan's behavior remains "rational," IRNA reported on 25 October. He welcomed Azerbaijan's "return to the fold" and noted that Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Hasan Hasanov will visit Iran in the near future. He also said Azerbaijan should not be "oversensitive" about his country's ties to Armenia. Relations between Iran and Azerbaijan deteriorated sharply in April when Iranian participation in the international consortium exploiting three Caspian Sea oil fields was rejected by Baku under U.S. pressure. When a two-track decision to export the oil was announced in Baku on 9 October, Azerbaijan quickly offered Iran a chance to join in the exploitation of the Shah Deniz field in the Caspian. -- Lowell Bezanis [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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