|[America,] it is the only place where miracles not only happen, but where they happen all the time. - Thomas Wolfe|
No. 227, Part I, 21 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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT DECLINES TO REVIEW ELECTION LAW. The Constitutional Court refused to consider an appeal by more than 100 State Duma deputies and the Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the electoral law, Russian Public Television reported 20 November. The petitioners argued that the law's 5% barrier violates the constitution as it will deny political representation to a significant part of the population. The Chairman of the court, Vladimir Tumanov, told journalists that he was not yet ready to explain the reasons for the court's decision. By declining the case, the court has continued its policy of avoiding political conflict. -- Robert Orttung ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIA REACTION TO THE COURT'S DECISION. Presidential Press Secretary Sergei Medvedev said that the Constitutional Court's decision not to review the electoral law "does not remove the high level of tension created by doubts about the quality of the Duma electoral law." He suggested that the court was leaving it up to the Duma to change the law, ITAR-TASS reported. The leaders of Russia's Democratic Choice, the Communist Party and the Liberal Democratic Party supported the court's decision. The status quo helps the larger parties because they are more likely to clear the barrier. Russian Television commented that any attempts to change the law a month before the elections would only serve the interests of those who want to postpone them. Declaring the 5% barrier unconstitutional would undermine the legitimacy of the current Duma, since it was elected with this provision. -- Robert Orttung PRESIDENTIAL AIDES TAKE LEAVE FOR DUMA CAMPAIGN. Presidential Chief of Staff Sergei Filatov announced 20 November that all employees of the presidential administration who are running for the Duma have taken leave as of 15 November, Russian Television reported. According to Rossiiskie vesti on 18 November, they are competing on a variety of lists including Russia's Democratic Choice, the Inter-ethnic Union, the Federal Democratic Movement, and For the Motherland!, which includes Black Sea Fleet Commander Eduard Baltin and former Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Polevanov. The presidential representatives to Russia's regions are also on a variety slates including Our Home is Russia, Bloc 89, Social-Democrats, Bloc of Independents, and Sergei Shakhrai's Party of Russian Unity and Concord, which split from Our Home is Russia on 30 August. -- Robert Orttung LEBED, YAVLINSKII TO RUN FOR PRESIDENCY. Lt. Gen. (ret.) Aleksandr Lebed, deputy leader of the Congress of Russian Communities (KRO), said he would probably run for president in 1996, ITAR-TASS and Radio Mayak reported on 20 November. Lebed said that his decision would depend on the KRO's results in the December parliamentary elections. He also said that there is no split in the KRO leadership over the candidate for the forthcoming presidential elections. The day before, NTV reported that KRO's number one on the party list, Yurii Skokov, was planning to contest the presidential elections himself, and suggested that the leaders' ambitions might cause tensions within the bloc (see OMRI Daily Digest, 20 November 1995). On 15 November, Radio Mayak reported that Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii confirmed that he would also run, though he described the elections as "virtually tantamount to electing a tsar." -- Anna Paretskaya COMMUNISTS WELCOME ELECTION RESULTS IN POLAND. Genadii Zyuganov, leader of the Communist Party, hailed the victory of Aleksandr Kwasniewski, the presidential candidate of the post-communist Polish left, Russian and Western agencies reported on 20 November. "Across Europe there is a movement to the left, and this is taking place here [in Russia] as well," Zyuganov added. Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Krylov expressed hope that Kwasniewski's election would trigger improvement in Russian-Polish relations. Defeated incumbent Lech Walesa distrusted Russia, and some in Moscow hope that Kwasnieski will be more flexible on issues of importance to Russia, like NATO expansion. -- Scott Parrish RUSSIAN PRESS ON POLISH ELECTIONS. The results of Poland's presidential election also attracted attention in the Russian press on 21 November, as analysts looked for parallels with the ongoing Russian parliamentary campaign. The Communist daily Pravda tried to generalize from the Polish outcome, attributing Walesa's defeat to his "failed attempt to play the worn-out anti-communist card." Liberal and centrist papers, however, said Kwasniewski had beaten Walesa because of factors specific to the Polish election, suggesting that its results would not be duplicated in Russia. Nezavisimaya gazeta said he had skillfully capitalized on accusations of tax evasion against Walesa, while Izvestiya and Segodnya noted that Kwasniewski's party was significantly different in orientation that Genadii Zyuganov's Russian Communist Party, adding that Kwasniewski's victory "would not stop "the construction of capitalism in Poland." -- Laurie Belin and Scott Parrish RUSSIA ANNOUNCES COMPLIANCE WITH CFE. The Russian Defense Ministry announced on 20 November that Russia has fulfilled its overall obligations under the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty (CFE), ITAR- TASS reported. During the 40-month reduction period provided by the 19 November 1990 treaty, Russia decommissioned 3,188 tanks, 5,419 APC's, 660 artillery pieces, 1,029 military planes, and 99 combat helicopters. Almost 70 inspection groups are to visit Russia to verify the final arms levels. Although Russia has complied with the overall limits in the treaty, it is in violation of its "flank limits," on which talks are continuing. On the same day, a Turkish spokesman urged Russia to comply with all aspects of the CFE treaty as Turkey had. -- Constantine Dmitriev and Doug Clarke EU MINISTERS ENDORSE COOPERATION WITH RUSSIA. The EU foreign ministers' council approved a framework for future ties with Russia on 20 November, Western and Russian agencies reported. The document says that "good relations" between Russia and the EU are essential to "stability in Europe," and says Russia should be included in discussions of a future European security order. It also pledged that the EU will develop a "genuine partnership" with Russia; push for Russia's rapid admission to the Council of Europe; support the Russian application to the World Trade Organization; and implement the interim EU-Russia trade agreement signed on 17 July. However, Russian-EU textile talks broke off without agreement on 15 November, amid Russian charges of EU protectionism. -- Scott Parrish YELTSIN CALLS FOR PASSAGE OF ALTERNATIVE SERVICE LAW. President Boris Yeltsin has called on State Duma Chairman Ivan Rybkin to adopt a federal law on a civilian service alternative to military service, Interfax reported on 20 November. The law was approved on its first reading last December but has yet to be passed. The Ministry of Defense supports alternative service only on religious grounds and demands that conscientious objectors serve in auxiliary military units and spend two or three times longer than military conscripts. -- Doug Clarke JAPANESE JOURNALISTS COLD SHOULDERED IN VLADIVOSTOK. The controversial governor of Primorsk Krai, Yevgenii Nazdratenko, threw two Japanese reporters out of his office and confiscated their camera when they took a photograph of him, Izvestiya reported on 21 November. He complained that the questions, which the journalists from Hokkaido Shimbun had submitted in advance, were "insulting." Nazdrantenko, who was appointed governor in May 1993, is running for election to that post on 17 December. -- Peter Rutland ANTI-AIRCRAFT MISSILES STOLEN. Members of the Interior Ministry's Organized Crime Department seized two Russian Stinger-type rocket launchers and 135 anti-aircraft missiles from two "unemployed persons of no fixed abode" in the capital last weekend, Interfax reported on 20 November. Illegal arms dealing in Russia is rampant because of regional conflicts, lax security, and corruption within the military. -- Penny Morvant MINERS, TEACHERS STRIKE. Miners at the Yuzhnaya pit in Vorkuta, which is scheduled for closure in 1996, are striking to protest delays in the payment of their wages, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 November. Miners at the pit have not been paid since July, although the average delay in wage payments in the Vorkutaugol company has fallen to less than a month owing to the more rapid payment of state subsidies. Meanwhile, about 3,000 education workers in Amursk in Khabarovsk Krai went on strike on 20 November to protest wage arrears and inadequate funding for education. According to Pravda of 21 November, the Trade Union of Science and Education Workers has called a national strike for 14-15 December to press for increased government expenditure on education. -- Penny Morvant ALTAI WORKERS PAID IN MATCHES. Workers at the Barnaul Match Factory in Altai Krai each received 5,000 boxes of matches in place of their salary before being sent on administrative leave for two weeks, ITAR-TASS reported on 21 November. The factory is facing a shortage of cardboard for matchboxes and is in financial difficulties. In recent years, many firms have been forced to pay their staff in kind, because of interenterprise debt and delays in payments from the state. -- Penny Morvant BALANCE OF PAYMENTS RESULTS. In the first half of 1995 Russia paid off $1.7 billion of her external debts, whose overall total nevertheless rose by $2 billion because of non-payment of interest, Ekonomika i zhizn reported in issue no. 46. New credits amounted to $2.8 billion, of which $1.7 billion came through the IMF stand-by facility. Segodnya reported on 16 November that in the first nine months of the year official foreign currency reserves rose to $10.9 billion and gold reserves to $2.5 billion. Thus there is still no sign of the receipts from Russia's healthy trade surplus being used to repay her external debts. -- Peter Rutland FATE OF BUDGET STILL UNCLEAR. In addition to approving the budget on first reading on 17 November, the Duma passed a number of measures which call into question the revenue expectations of the draft budget, Kommersant Daily noted on 18 November. Tax privileges for small businesses and joint-stock company reserves were restored, and VAT was reduced on construction work and on certain types of foodstuffs (from 20 to 10%). These steps will cut revenues by 10.2 trillion rubles ($2.25 billion). In addition, the 4.5 trillion rubles of additional spending which was the price the Duma extracted for its positive vote will need to be covered by additional revenues. -- Peter Rutland and Natasha Gurushina SOLZHENITSYN ESSAYS PUBLISHED. For the first time a collection of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's non-fiction essays is being published in Russia, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 November. The book includes 200 pieces, such as his speeches at Harvard University and when accepting the Nobel Prize. Further volumes are to follow. The editor, the author's wife Natalya Solzhenitsyna, described it as more comprehensive than the English-language collections already available. It is being published by the Upper Volga Publishing House, with a print run of only 10,000 copies. -- Peter Rutland TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA UPDATE ON AZERBAIJAN ELECTIONS. The Azerbaijan Central Electoral Commission has endorsed 72 of the 100 deputies to the new parliament elected in single-candidate constituencies, Interfax reported. The successful candidates include the son, son-in-law and a brother of President Heidar Aliev; forty are members of Aliev's Yeni Azerbaycan party. According to Turan, the list is virtually identical to one circulated before the elections by former presidential advisor Nemat Panakhov containing names of persons he claimed had been selected in advance to be parliament deputies. The CEC also stated that 91.9 percent of participating voters had voted in favor of the new constitution. -- Liz Fuller KAZAKHSTANI PREMIER IN BRITAIN Kazakhstani Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin addressed an EBRD-sponsored conference on Kazakhstan at the beginning of his four day official visit to Britain, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 November. Kazhegeldin highlighted Kazakhstan's achievements in bringing down inflation from 3,000% in 1993 to 1,250% in 1994. In a bid to woo British investment, he highlighted Kazakhstan's 15-month economic program adopted in mid-1994, which entails a restructuring of economic enterprises, formation of new market institutions, and "undertaking harsh anti-inflationary measures as well as unpopular price liberalization." -- Bhavna Dave CRIME IN UZBEKISTAN. Uzbek Prosecutor-General Buritosh Mustafayev claimed that Uzbekistan has the lowest crime rate in the CIS, reports the BBC on 19 November. Mustafayev stated that "law enforcement organs fully control the situation in Uzbekistan," thanks to a 30% increase in governmental support this past year. At the same time, Uzbek forces are teaming up with investigators from Kazakhstan to solve a crime that took place on their shared border. Sixteen bodies were discovered in the Keles River on 16 November. Kazakhstanskaya pravda, as cited by the BBC, notes that no motives or suspects have been identified. -- Roger Kangas [As of 1200 CET] Compiled by Roger Kangas 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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