|Every individual has a place to fill in the world, and is important, in some respect, whether he chooses to be so or not. - Nathaniel Hawthorne|
No. 221, Part I, 13 November 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 ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^TODAY'S TOP STORY^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ REFERENDUM, ELECTIONS IN AZERBAIJAN. Azerbaijan's parliamentary elections and a referendum on a new constitution took place on 12 November with a 79.8% turnout, international media reported the same day. Although preliminary results have yet to be released, the election has received sharp criticism from international monitors and leading Azerbaijani opposition figures barred from running. Four opposition parties (Musavat, the Communist Party, the Hope Party, and the Popular Democratic Party) were barred from participating and there was a greater number of parliamentary candidates who were denied registration than those who were permitted to compete. In related news, four journalists connected to the satirical samizdat publication Chesme who were convicted of insulting the honor of the president were pardoned on the eve of elections. -- Lowell Bezanis ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIA YELTSIN REJECTS LAW ON FEDERATION COUNCIL. President Boris Yeltsin refused to sign the latest version of the law on forming the parliament's upper house, citing "serious violations of the procedure for adopting the law," ITAR-TASS reported on 11 November. Yeltsin's veto came after a meeting with Federation Council Speaker Vladimir Shumeiko in the hospital. The upper house had vetoed the bill on 25 October, but the Duma was able to muster the 300 votes necessary to override the veto and forward it to the president on 27 October. Shumeiko has long called for extending the term of the current Federation Council and it seems unlikely that the sides will be able to agree on a new law before the current Council's term expires in December. The president wants to maintain the right to appoint some members of the Federation Council, while the Duma is pushing for them to be elected. -- Robert Orttung CONGRESS OF RUSSIAN COMMUNITIES BEGINS REFERENDUM DRIVE. The 10 November meeting of the Congress of Russian Communities (KRO) supported holding a national referendum on amending the constitution to strengthen popular oversight over the authorities. The movement set up an initiative committee to begin collecting the 2 million signatures required by law to call a referendum. KRO leader Yurii Skokov described the referendum as more important than the Duma elections, ITAR-TASS reported. Skokov said that the KRO now boasts 460,000 members in Russia. Deputy leader Aleksandr Lebed called for parliament to play the main role in reforming the military and ensuring social oversight over it. In contrast to KRO's 2 September congress, this one was open to the media. -- Robert Orttung ORDER OF PARTIES ON BALLOT DETERMINED. The Central Electoral Commission determined by random drawing the order in which the 42 registered electoral blocs will appear on the ballot, Russian media reported on 10 November. Women of Russia will be listed first, followed by Aleksandr Rutskoi's Derzhava and several relatively obscure parties. More prominent contenders were not so lucky: Our Home Is Russia will be no. 17, Yabloko will be no. 19, Russia's Democratic Choice-United Democrats will be no. 23, the Communist Party will be no. 25, the Congress of Russian Communities will be no. 31, the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia will be no. 33, and the Agrarian Party will be no. 41. (A complete list of the 42 parties on the ballot will appear in the 14 November OMRI Special Report on the Russian elections.) -- Laura Belin PROTESTS OVER KAZAKHSTANI COSSACK LEADER'S ARREST. Various Cossack communities, members of KRO, Pamyat, and other nationalist organizations in Russia demonstrated on 12 November outside the Kazakhstani embassy in Moscow to demand the release of Semirechie Cossack leader Nikolai Gunkin, NTV reported. Gunkin was arrested in Almaty on 28 October while trying to register as a candidate for the elections. The Cossack groups blamed President Yeltsin for his failure to take action against the Kazakhstani government's policy of "pushing out Russians," Russian TV reported on 12 November. They also threatened to liberate Gunkin themselves and "whip the unruly Kazakh leaders with lashes," if the Kazakhstani authorities fail to respond to the Cossack demands, NTV added. The Kazakhstani authorities claim that a criminal case has been pending against Gunkin since early this year and the fact that he was arrested while seeking registration in Almaty is a coincidence. -- Constantine Dmitriev & Bhavna Dave DUDAEV NEGOTIATOR BLASTS ELECTION PLANS. A negotiator for Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev, Akhmed Zakaev, on 11 November blasted plans to hold Duma elections in Chechnya on 17 November, Russian agencies reported. Zakaev told NTV that if the local electoral commission went ahead with the elections, it would provoke pro-Dudaev fighters to resume large-scale military action, adding that no elections should be held in Chechnya before its constitutional status is determined. Meanwhile, mediator Ruslan Khasbulatov again called for renewed Russian-Chechen talks but warned that fighting could resume soon if progress is not made on a political settlement. Sporadic fighting continued over the weekend as federal positions were attacked 29 times on 11-12 November, with particularly heavy attacks around the town of Bamut and in Grozny, Interfax reported. -- Scott Parrish MORE THAN 150 DRUG-RELATED CRIMES REGISTERED IN CHECHNYA. Police have registered over 150 drug-related crimes, seized nearly 100 kgs of drugs, and arrested 47 drug traffickers in Chechnya since the beginning of the year, the head of the Russian Interior Ministry anti-drug task force, Maj. Gen. Aleksandr Sergeev, told Interfax on 12 November. Sergeev said the majority of drugs is produced in the mountainous area of Chechnya controlled by pro-Dudaev rebels. The major general said that every hectare of poppies can produce up to 50 kgs of opium that can be used to make 5 kgs of morphine. One gram of morphine is divided into 10 doses priced at 20,000 to 30,000 rubles each ($4.42-$6.64). The rebels use the money to buy arms. Opium and heroine also make their way to Chechnya from Tajikistan and Afghanistan. -- Thomas Sigel YETLSIN APPROVES NATO PLAN FOR BOSNIA. The presidential press service announced that Yeltsin has approved the compromise command arrangements for Russian participation in the proposed Bosnian peace implementation force, which Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev and his U.S. counterpart, William Perry, hammered out last week. Yeltsin ordered the Defense and Foreign ministries to work out a common approach to the still unresolved problem of political control over the proposed peacekeeping force. -- Scott Parrish STEPASHIN APPOINTED TO GOVERNMENT STAFF POST. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin has appointed former Federal Security Service (FSB) Director Sergei Stepashin to head the Administrative Department of the government apparatus, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 November. According to an anonymous source in the presidential administration, in his new position Stepashin will oversee interdepartmental coordination among Russian security and intelligence services. Stepashin was sacked as FSB chief in July, along with Interior Minister Viktor Yerin and Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Yegorov, following the Budennovsk hostage crisis. All three have now been reappointed to posts in the executive branch. -- Scott Parrish GAS PIPELINE SABOTAGED. An explosion and subsequent fire destroyed 250 meters of a gas pipeline near Vladikavkaz in North Ossetiya on 11 November, Russian and Western agencies reported. The damage to the pipeline caused a temporary shutoff of gas supplies to Armenia and Georgia, but the flow was later diverted to alternate routes and restored. The explosion apparently resulted from sabotage and Georgian officials accused South Ossetiyans of causing it, according to ITAR- TASS. Gas and oil pipelines have frequently been targeted by combatants in the region's conflicts. -- Scott Parrish NEW CENTRAL BANK CHIEF TAKES CHARGE. In his first press conference, the new acting head of the Central Bank of Russia, Aleksandr Khandruev, signaled that he will take an active role in trying to deal with the liquidity crisis facing the Russian banking system. When asked to comment on his temporary appointment, he remarked that "temporary can become permanent," Segodnya reported on 11 November. The same day, Rossiiskaya gazeta suggested that President Boris Yeltsin is likely to nominate Khandruev to be the permanent head of the bank, describing him as a pragmatic professional whose "policies are close to those of Viktor Gerashchenko" (the former bank chief, who opposed former Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar's monetarism). It now seems clear that Tatyana Paramonova did not leave of her own volition but was forced to resign by the government. -- Peter Rutland HIGH PRICES FOR SUGAR, PETROL. The prices of a number of commonly used goods in Russia have overtaken world prices this year, given the current exchange rate of roughly 4,500 rubles to $1, according to a report by the government economic center. Whereas in March the prices of 24% of goods studied by the center exceeded world levels, by September that proportion had jumped to 58%. The prices paid by enterprises for petrol and sugar, for example, were 78% and 68% higher than world market prices respectively, Izvestiya reported on 10 November. That situation occurred because domestic prices are still rising while the value of the ruble against the dollar has been held stable. By September, even electricity cost 2% more than the world average. The cost of a ton of crude oil, however, was still only 62% of the world price. -- Penny Morvant TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA DEMONSTRATIONS AGAINST AZERBAIJAN'S CONSTITUTION IN TABRIZ. Tens of thousands of people demonstrated in Tabriz, the main town in Iran's East Azerbaijan province, against what they called "anti-Islamic" changes being made to the Azerbaijani Constitution, AFP reported on 11 November. The demonstrations occurred after Friday prayers on 10 November and on the eve of Azerbaijan's simultaneous parliamentary elections and referendum on the new constitution. The demonstrations were allegedly called to protest the draft constitution's separation of state and religion and its failure to mention Islam as the country's national religion; protesters called on Iran to "reconsider relations with Azerbaijan" if the draft is voted into law. -- Lowell Bezanis OPPOSITION MAY BOYCOTT NEW GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT. The leaders of the Georgian opposition parties are dissatisfied by the results of the parliamnetary elections and are seriously discussing the creation of an alternative parliament, Interfax reported on 12 November. The results are controversial because even though many opposition parties did not overcome the 5% threshold, they in total received 62% of the vote. The three parties who will get the seats in the parliament won only 38% in total. The Central Electoral Commission announced also that the second round of the elections in single-mandate constituencies will take place on 19 November. -- Irakli Tsereteli KAZAKHSTAN TO RECEIVE MILITARY JETS FROM RUSSIA. The Russian government will provide Kazakhstan's Defense Ministry with 43 jets, including 21 MiG-29s, by the end of 1995, as compensation for nuclear warheads and strategic bombers withdrawn from the republic two years ago, Panorama reported on 11 November. Kazakhstan will receive another 30 modern military jets over the next two years, First Deputy Prime Minister Nigmatzhan Isingarin said at a press conference held to discuss the bilateral agreements negotiated during the recent meeting of CIS heads in Moscow. The creation of a joint air defense system and the lease of the Baikonur cosmodrome were among other issues raised during the Kazakhstani-Russian military negotiations. -- Vyacheslav Kozlov in Almaty PAKISTAN'S PRIME MINISTER VISITS UZBEKISTAN. On 11 November, Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto paid a one-day visit to Tashkent to meet with Uzbek President Islam Karimov at the latter's invitation for talks on the civil war in Afghanistan, ITAR-TASS reported. Karimov stressed the importance of keeping foreign powers out of Afghanistan's leadership decisions, Reuters reported, adding that at the same time, the war itself should be a concern for neighboring states. Meanwhile, Bhutto emphatically declared Pakistan neutral in the conflict, despite persistent claims by the Afghan government that her country supports the rebel Taliban group. Bhutto's trip follows on the heels of a visit by Foreign Minister Aseff Ahmad Ali to northern Afghanistan where he met with General Abdul Rashid Dostum, who maintains control of that part of the country. -- Roger Kangas NO PROGRESS AT KARABAKH TALKS. The latest round of peace talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan ended in Moscow on 12 November without recording any progress, Russian and Western media reported. The Russian co- chairman of the Minsk Conference for Nagorno-Karabakh, Vladimir Kazimirov, said the two sides had followed Russia's initiative to consider the problem of the strategic Lachin corridor which connects Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia, Interfax reported the same day. The proposal appears to provide for the demilitarization of Lachin and adjacent areas in order to turn the region into a safe "transit zone" for people and cargo. The next round of talks are scheduled to begin in Bonn on 22 November. -- Lowell Bezanis [As of 1200 CET] Compiled by Victor Gomez The OMRI Daily Digest offers the latest news from the former Soviet Union and Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe. It is published Monday through Friday by the Open Media Research Institute. 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