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No. 223, Part I, 15 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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ CONSTITUTIONAL COURT TO CONSIDER DEPUTIES' INQUIRY ON ELECTORAL LAW. The Constitutional Court has agreed to consider the constitutionality of the Duma electoral law, Russian TV reported on 14 November. A group of 103 Duma deputies say that the law contradicts eight articles of the constitution and should be changed before the December parliamentary elections. According to Vyacheslav Nikonov, a representative of the deputies' group, the fact that the law allows for half of the deputies to be elected by party list is a violation of the voter's constitutional right to participate in his or her government because party-list candidates represent the interests of their parties rather then those of the voters, Ekspress-Khronika reported. The court will also examine the rule that requires parties to win 5% of the popular vote to gain parliamentary representation (see OMRI Daily Digest 10 November 1995). -- Anna Paretskaya ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIA SUPREME COURT ORDERS REGISTRATION OF ANOTHER PARTY. On 14 November, the Supreme Court ordered the Central Electoral Commission (TsIK) to register the Union of Russian Housing Industry Workers for the Duma campaign by 15 November, ITAR-TASS reported. The consequences of this order are not clear since the TsIK has already determined the order of parties on the ballot and the dates on which the parties will be given free broadcasting time. -- Robert Orttung POLL SHOWS ONLY THREE PARTIES CLEARING 5% BARRIER. A Public Opinion Poll conducted 26 October shows that only the Communist Party, Our Home is Russia, and Women of Russia would clear the 5% barrier if elections were held now, with support from 14%, 7% and 6% of those polled respectively. Such a result would inevitably mean that many voters would not have party representation in the Duma if they supported one of the 39 other parties that fell below the 5% barrier. -- Robert Orttung TELEVISION CAMPAIGN FOR DUMA BEGINS. State-owned television and radio stations in Russia began giving the 42 registered parties in the Duma campaign free air time on 15 November. Russian Public TV (ORT) had wanted to organize its broadcasts in the form of debates and round tables between the parties to make the presentations more lively and avoid "demagoguery and populism" according to ORT General Director Sergei Blagovolin. But the vast majority of the parties, including the Communists and Aleksandr Rutskoi's Derzhava, demanded solo appearances instead. ORT announced on 14 November that each party would have its own air time. Television played a major role in Vladimir Zhirinovsky's success in 1993 and is expected to influence Russia's numerous undecided voters this year as well. -- Robert Orttung ROMANOV ACCUSES CHERNOMYRDIN OF ILLEGALLY GIVING ORT MONEY. Federation Council Deputy Peter Romanov accused Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin of illegally giving $10 million and 75 billion rubles ($16.7 million) to Russian Public TV (ORT) on 14 November. Romanov doubted the legality of the transfer because he considers ORT a private company. The state has a 51% stake in the station. Romanov said Chernomyrdin is using state budget money to buy advertisements for his electoral bloc, Our Home is Russia, Russian TV reported. Romanov is the director of a large Krasnoyarsk chemical enterprise and has participated in the nationalistic Russian National Assembly. -- Robert Orttung SHUMEIKO OFFERS NEW PLAN FOR FORMING FEDERATION COUNCIL. Federation Council Speaker Vladimir Shumeiko proposed that the next Federation Council include the leaders of the local executive and legislative branches but said it should be left up to each region to decide whether or not the executive would be appointed by the president or elected locally. According to his plan, either the heads of the local branches or their deputies could join the upper house, ORT reported. The regions could also decide to allow the current Federation Council members, who were directly elected in 1993, to represent their interests. The members of the Federation Council did not initially support those plans, describing them as "undemocratic," and particularly objected to the idea of including two presidential representatives in the upper chamber as "illegitimate." Shumeiko's plan is unlikely to be more successful than the two previous versions of the law vetoed by Yeltsin. -- Robert Orttung KRO REFERENDUM TAKES SHAPE. The Congress of Russian Communities (KRO) is proposing that a referendum be held on the question, "Do you believe that the activity of the government should be evaluated according to the people's standard of living?" The idea for a referendum arose at the KRO's 10 November meeting (see OMRI Daily Digest, 13 November 1995). The KRO must collect 2 million signatures to place the issue on the ballot, Radio Mayak reported on 14 November. -- Robert Orttung GRACHEV MEETS WITH PATRIARCH. Defense Minister Pavel Grachev met with the Patriarch Aleksii II at St. Daniel's Monastery on 14 November to mark the 18-month anniversary of a cooperation agreement between the army and the Russian Orthodox Church, ITAR-TASS reported. Grachev said that liaison officers for cooperation with religious organizations will be stationed in military units. Meanwhile, a group of young Muscovites demonstrated outside the Defense Ministry to demand that Grachev be replaced by a civilian, Russian TV reported. -- Constantine Dmitriev RUSSIA DELIVERS SUBMARINE TO CHINA. Under the terms of a bilateral agreement on military-technical cooperation, a Russian delegation, led by Admiral Valentin Selivanov, chief of the Russian Naval Staff, has handed over a newly-constructed "Kilo" class diesel-electric submarine to China at the port of Ninbo, (see OMRI Daily Digest, 6 September 1995), ITAR-TASS reported on 15 November. Russian and Chinese military experts dismissed speculation that Russian sales of submarines to China may change the strategic balance in the North Pacific. ITAR-TASS cited an official from the U.S. State Department who said that Washington does not think that such deliveries will significantly increase Chinese naval capabilities. -- Constantine Dmitriev LOBOV CALLS FOR MORE SPENDING IN CHECHNYA. Presidential representative in Chechnya, Oleg Lobov, told journalists on 14 November that financing of federal forces and reconstruction in the republic is totally inadequate, Russian agencies reported. Lobov blamed the Finance Ministry, which he said had delayed scheduled payments from the federal budget. As a result, he said, federal troops were dying for lack of necessary equipment and supplies. Lobov added that he would recommend the expenditure of 14.7 trillion rubles ($3.3 billion) from the federal budget on reconstruction in the republic during 1996. ITAR-TASS reported on 15 November that sporadic fighting the previous day left 6 federal servicemen dead. -- Scott Parrish YELSTIN MEETS NAZARBAYEV. President Yeltsin met with Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev at the Central Clinical Hospital in Moscow on 14 November, Russian and Western agencies reported. During their televised meeting, Yeltsin angrily dismissed reports that he requires an operation for his heart condition as "foolish nonsense." The two presidents discussed bilateral and CIS issues, and Yeltsin told Russian Public TV (ORT) that he hoped Russian ties with Kazakhstan would develop "along the same lines as with Belarus." Despite the apparently friendly meeting, on the same day the Russian Ministry of Nationalities sent a letter to Kazakhstan protesting the recent arrest of Semirechie Cossack Ataman Nikolai Gunkin. -- Scott Parrish RUSSIA RECALLS AMBASSADOR TO NIGERIA. Joining a chorus of criticism from around the world, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Grigorii Karasin sharply criticized the Nigerian military regime for executing nine political activists despite international calls for clemency, Russian and Western agencies reported on 14 November. Karasin announced that Russia would recall its ambassador from Lagos for consultations. The U.S., Great Britain, and several other Western powers have also recalled their ambassadors from Nigeria to protest the executions. -- Scott Parrish JOINT U.S.-RUSSIAN VENTURE TO MARKET SPACE ROCKET. The Russian association Energomash and the U.S. company Pratt & Whitney plan to set up a joint venture to develop and market a liquid-fueling rocket engine which they hope will be chosen to modernize the American Atlas booster rocket, Interfax reported on 13 November. The new RD-180 engine will be based on the RD-170 engine now used in the first stage of the Russian Zenith space booster. It will be built by Energomash in Khimki, near Moscow. The U.S. space company Lockheed-Martin will announce the winner of the Atlas contract in January 1996. -- Doug Clarke MAFIA TIES TO LATIN AMERICA. The Moscow organized crime gang known as Solntsevo is planning to organize large-scale drug smuggling from Latin America to Russia, Izvestiya reported on 15 November. Many Russian criminals have dual citizenship and some have acquired the status of honorary consuls to Latin American countries. The leaders of the Solntsevo gang have established close relations with the Russian diaspora in Israel, Austria, and the U.S. and are now turning to Latin America. Costa Rica is particularly attractive because it is a small, quiet, and economically stable country, according to the report. -- Thomas Sigel ENVIRONMENT MINISTRY SEEKS DELAY IN CFC BAN. Russia will ask for a four- year delay before it conforms to a global ban on ozone-destroying gases that takes effect on 1 January 1996, Izvestiya reported on 15 November. The Environment Ministry said it needs $600,000 and time to convert industry to ozone-safe methods that comply with the 1987 Montreal protocol on phasing out production of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Industry in Russia is still emitting 90,000 tons of ozone-destructive gas each year. Scientists and environmentalists argue that ozone depletion results in increased cancer incidents and lower crop yields. -- Thomas Sigel STORMS IN FAR EAST CAUSE EXTENSIVE DAMAGE. Storms ripping across Russia's Far East last week killed three people, one on Sakhalin Island and two on the mainland, and injured dozens, Russian and Western agencies reported on 14 November. The hurricane-force winds caused $19 million in damage. The Kamchatka Peninsula city of Petropavlovsk- Kamchatskii was hit hardest as some 200 families were left homeless and their apartment buildings were destroyed by the 10 November storms. -- Thomas Sigel YELTSIN NOMINATES NEW CENTRAL BANK CHIEF. President Boris Yeltsin informed the Duma that he is nominating Sergei Dubinin to be the new permanent head of the Central Bank, NTV reported on 14 November. Dubinin, 44, is an academic economist who served as acting finance minister from February to October 1994 and was fired after the ruble collapse on "Black Tuesday". He currently heads the government Commission on Credit Policy and is a deputy chairman of Imperial Bank and a member of the Gazprom board. Yeltsin's move ends speculation that Aleksandr Khandruev, who only last week was appointed acting head of the bank, would be a candidate for the permanent position. Dubinin's candidacy must be approved by the Duma. Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin and Budget Committee Chairman Mikhail Zadornov came out in support of Dubinin. However, he may be opposed by anti-reform deputies as he is seen as the most monetarist of the commonly mentioned candidates. -- Peter Rutland EURASIANS DREAM OF ALASKA. The weekly Russian Asia, published in Novosibirsk, wants to integrate Siberia into the global economy. To this end, it proposes reviving a 1906 project to build a railway tunnel under the Bering Straits, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 November. The idea of linking Russia with Alaska by such a tunnel was postponed due to World War I. An equally implausible idea the paper proposes is to build a new 7,200 km railway along the northern Arctic coast. In the meantime, a new 640 km line is currently being built from Tynda (Amur Oblast) north to Yakutsk, an important center of mining activity. -- Peter Rutland TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA KAZAKHS, COSSACKS, AND RUSSIANS. Recent media coverage of imprisoned Cossack Ataman Nikolai Gunkin prompted Kazakhstani government officials on 13 November to release a statement denying any discrimination toward the Russian-speaking community in the Central Asian republic, according to Interfax. Meanwhile, the Cossacks of Russia's Kurgan Oblast, which borders Kazakhstan, have sent letters of protest to both the Russian and Kazakhstani governments over the matter. The Cossacks say they are prepared to block roads along the border in order to obtain a solution to the Gunkin problem as well as to the larger issue of the Russian speaking population's rights. -- Bruce Pannier UZBEK PRESIDENT IN GERMANY TO IMPROVE ECONOMIC RELATIONS. Uzbek President Islam Karimov arrived in Stuttgart, Germany on 14 November to begin a three-day visit. An ITAR-TASS report of the same day noted that Karimov is scheduled to meet with representatives of several major companies, including the auto firm Daimler-Benz, and the shoe manufacturer Salamander AG. The latter plans to set up a plant that will produce more than 500,000 pairs of men's shoes per year, according to a Reuters report of 15 November. Germany remains one of the key investors in the Uzbek economy, with bilateral trade at over $700 million in 1995. Roger Kangas [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. The OMRI Daily Digest is distributed electronically via the OMRI-L list. 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