|Comedy is an escape, not from truth but from despair; a narrow escape into faith. - Christopher Fry|
No. 228, Part I, 22 November 1995
NOTE TO READERS: DUE TO THE OBSERVANCE OF A U.S. HOLIDAY, THE OMRI DAILY DIGEST WILL NOT APPEAR ON 23 OR 24 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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ COSSACK ATAMAN SENTENCED. According to Russian Television on 21 November, an Almaty court has sentenced Cossack Ataman Nikolai Gunkin to three months in jail after finding him guilty of holding an illegal demonstration in January of this year (see OMRI Daily Digest, 17 November 1995). The trial had been delayed for several days because Gunkin had launched a hunger strike. Gunkin remarked that the trial "showed once again how anti-democratic Kazakhstan's regime is." Trial judge Mirakhan Akhmetshiyeva countered by saying that the defense and political opponents are hoping to benefit from the publicity. -- Roger Kangas ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIA PRESIDENTIAL AIDES CALL FOR CHANGE IN ELECTORAL LAW. Presidential Chief of Staff Sergei Filatov and aide Georgii Satarov have called for the electoral law to be amended, saying that otherwise the elections could be declared illegitimate, Russian Public Television (ORT) reported on 21 November. The two spoke at a meeting of a commission set up by the Civic Accord, a Yeltsin-sponsored initiative to reduce political violence. Other members of the commission denounced the proposals as attempts by those in power to overturn the elections if they are unhappy with the results. Duma Member Yurii Nisnevich (Russia's Choice) pointed out that it would be impossible to agree on changes in the time remaining before the elections, Russian TV reported. The commission recommended setting up a conciliatory commission of both houses of the parliament and the president to recommend amendments. -- Robert Orttung SHUMEIKO DENOUNCES DUMA PLAN FOR FEDERATION COUNCIL. Federation Council Speaker Vladimir Shumeiko criticized the Duma bill on the Federation Council adopted on 17 November as "short-sighted." Shumeiko, who wants the Federation Council to initiate the legislation concerning its future, called on members of the upper house to finalize a proposal to send to the Duma, ITAR-TASS reported on 21 November. Filatov said Yeltsin would sign the Duma bill if the Federation Council agrees to it, Radio Rossii reported. The Constitutional Court will hold hearings on Yeltsin's request to clarify what the constitution says about the Federation Council's formation on 7 December. -- Robert Orttung KHAKAMADA, RUTSKOI SPAR IN FIRST DEBATE. Common Cause leader Irina Khakamada and Derzhava's Aleksandr Rutskoi participated in the first debate on Russian Public Television on 20 November, the BBC reported. Most candidates have rejected offers to debate, preferring to address the voters singly. Khakamada proposed that regional Interior Ministry heads be elected locally to make them accountable to voters, arguing that this would boost the fight against crime. Rutskoi denounced the idea as "ridiculous." He called for a tough campaign against "the criminal power that has criminalized society." -- Robert Orttung RUSSIA'S CHOICE AND WOMEN OF RUSSIA DEMAND GRACHEV'S RESIGNATION. Two parliamentary parties called for the resignation of Defense Minister Pavel Grachev on 21 November, Russian and Western agencies reported. The deputies criticized Grachev for involving the military in politics by promising that the army would support Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's Our Home is Russia (see OMRI Daily Digest, 20 November). However, Moskovskii komsomolets of 21 November suggested that the way the army votes will depend more on the attitude of junior officers than of the high command. -- Constantine Dmitriev RADIO STATION'S BROADCAST STOPPED. Russkaya Radio's broadcasts were interrupted at noon on 21 November after 20 men armed with submachine guns, some dressed in police uniforms, broke into the studio and damaged the transmitter, Russian media reported citing chief producer Aleksandr Bunin. A representative of the Interior Ministry department responsible for broadcasting said that the transmission was interrupted because the station lacked the proper licenses, adding that broadcasting could resume as soon as the radio's papers are in order, ITAR-TASS reported. Bunin, however, told Public Russian TV that the incident was the result of the radio's decision to refuse air time to an unnamed extremist right-wing politician. -- Anna Paretskaya YELTSIN HAILS BOSNIA AGREEMENT. President Yeltsin praised the Dayton agreement as a "big step" towards resolving "the most tragic conflict in Europe since WW II," Western and Russian agencies reported on 21 November. The hospitalized president called on the warring parties to "strictly abide" by the terms of the agreement, and urged the immediate lifting of UN sanctions against rump Yugoslavia. Yeltsin added, however, that Russia would decide "later" whether to participate in a NATO-led peace implementation force in Bosnia. Russian Col.-Gen. Leontii Shevtsov, who is slated to command the Russian contingent in the force, had said earlier that his troops would be assigned to guard the strategic Posavina corridor, which links Serb-held territory in eastern and western Bosnia. -- Scott Parrish MILITARY LACKS MONEY TO DESTROY WEAPONS ON TIME. Russia will be unable to meet the 31 December deadline for destroying weapons shipped east of the Urals in 1990 and 1991, a senior Defense Ministry official told Interfax on 21 November. Gen. Dmitrii Kharchenko said that the military does not have enough money to destroy the weapons, and has proposed that the deadline be extended until the end of 1998. To break an impasse over ratification of the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty, then Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev in June 1991 pledged to destroy 6,000 tanks, 1,500 armored vehicles, and 7,000 artillery systems from the weapons the Soviet military had shipped east to exempt them from the treaty. Kharchenko said so far only 1,141 tanks, 608 armored vehicles, and 2,709 artillery systems have been destroyed and that about 100 billion rubles ($20 million) are needed to complete the task. -- Doug Clarke GENERAL DENIES RUSSIA HAS 100,000 TONS OF CHEMICAL WEAPONS. Col.-Gen. Stanislav Petrov, head of the Chemical, Radiological, and Bacteriological Defense Troops, told ITAR-TASS on 21 November that Russia has only 40,000 tons of chemical agents in storage, as it had declared on 26 October (see OMRI Daily Digest, 27 October 1995). Petrov refuted testimony earlier that day from the head of the Interagency Commission on Ecological Security of the Russian Security Council, Aleksei Yablokov, who told the Federation Council that Russia had 100,000 tons of chemical weapons in storage at secret sites. Petrov reiterated that all Russian chemical weapons storage facilities have been declared and many visited by monitors under international agreements. -- Scott Parrish OFFICIAL: RED MERCURY DOES NOT EXIST. A new book, The Secrets of Red Mercury, has been published by Gen. Aleksandr Gurov, Rossiiskaya gazeta reported on 21 November. Gurov was the head of a Ministry of Internal Affairs team that investigated rumors about the smuggling of red mercury in 1990. The substance, which supposedly can be used to accelerate nuclear explosions, attracted sensational publicity in the West in the early 1990s. Gurov concludes that red mercury does not exist and blamed the rumors on "international swindlers" and foreign adversaries trying to discredit Russia's nuclear program. -- Peter Rutland LATEST UNEMPLOYMENT FIGURES. During the first 10 months of 1995, 5.9 million people, or 8.1% of the economically active population, were without jobs, according to Goskomstat figures reported by ITAR-TASS on 21 November. The number of officially registered unemployed was 2.2 million, or 3% of the country's 73-million-strong labor force. -- Penny Morvant MOSCOW PLANS TO TACKLE VAGRANCY. In an interview with ITAR-TASS on 21 November, Moscow social security official Igor Syrinkov said that the local authorities are planning to tackle the problem of vagrancy and begging, described as "permanent features of Moscow's streets." He said that the porous borders with other former Soviet republics and the lack of legislation against vagrancy meant that poor people from the CIS were gathering on Moscow's streets and stations. He said vagrants without the right to live in Moscow would be expelled, while those who were, or had been, registered in the capital would be found places in shelters and homes run by clinics. -- Penny Morvant SARATOV MASSACRE. Eleven people, including a local mafia boss, were found dead in an office in Saratov on 20 November in what police believe was the result of a turf war between local criminal groups, Russian TV reported. The chairman of the Grozd wine concern and 10 other men had been sprayed with gunfire at point-blank range. The shooting is being investigated by a special unit headed by First Deputy Interior Minister Vladimir Kolesnikov. -- Penny Morvant QUESTIONS SURROUND EQUITY/LOAN AUCTION. Further details are emerging of the first share/loan auctions that took place on 17 November. According to Izvestiya of 21 November, the shadowy firm Euroresurs, which won 15% of Nafta Moskvy in return for a $36 million bid, does not have the money to make good its offer. In this case the shares will go to the bank that served as the guarantor for its bid--the Bank of Tokyo. Nafta Moskvy is the successor to the firm Soyuznefteeksport, which formerly handled 30% of Russia's oil exports. The firm KONT is also questioning the rejection of its $355 milion bid for 38% of Norilsk Nickel, in favor of a $170 million bid from Oneksimbank. The ostensible reason was that KONT's bank, Rossiiskii Kredit, did not have sufficient assets to guarantee the loan. -- Peter Rutland TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA YELTSIN ORDERS KOZYREV TO BREAK ABKHAZ DEADLOCK. Moving to reinforce Russia's assumed role of "broker" in the Caucasus, President Yeltsin instructed Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev to revive the currently suspended Georgian-Abkhaz peace talks, Russian and Western agencies reported on 21 November. Continuing the recent Russian tilt towards Georgia, an anonymous Russian Foreign Ministry official blamed the impasse on Abkhaz intransigence, which he attributed to hopes that the 17 December Duma elections will trigger a change in Russian policy. -- Scott Parrish "TURKESTAN" FORUM OPENS IN TASHKENT. An international cultural forum for the peoples of Turkestan opened in Tashkent this week amid fanfare and controversy. According to an ITAR-TASS report of 21 November, the forum of cultural and intellectual figures from the Central Asian states met under the slogan, "Turkestan--Our Common Home." Uzbek President Islam Karimov proclaimed that "Our homeland--Turkestan--is one big home, one great household, one great family." However, some participants objected to the very use of the term "Turkestan." According to RFE/RL's Uzbek Service, there is concern that the forum will be used as a vehicle for Uzbek regional hegemony. As has been the case for several regional meetings this year, Turkmenistan declined to send a representative. -- Roger Kangas HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH TO OPEN AN OFFICE IN UZBEKISTAN. Members of Human Rights Watch are meeting Uzbek officials in Tashkent with a view to setting up a working office in the city, Interfax reported on 20 November. A representative of the group noted that Uzbekistan's past record on human rights is cause for concern, adding that the situation of "democratic liberties" in Uzbekistan should be a factor in determining international aid to the country. -- Roger Kangas KAZAKHSTAN OPENS CONSULATE IN IRAN. A Kazakhstani consulate was officially opened on 21 November in the northern Iranian city of Meshhed, ITAR-TASS reported. Kazakhstan is the fourth country to open a consulate in Meshhed, after Afghanistan, Pakistan and Turkmenistan. The recent detainment in the city of several visitors from Kazakhstan, accused of violating Islamic laws, may have played a part in the decision to open the consulate. The visitors were eventually released and sent home after the intervention of Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani. -- Bruce Pannier BACK TO AFGHANISTAN VIA TURKMENISTAN. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and authorities from Afghanistan, Iran, and Turkmenistan have reached agreement on repatriating 250,000 Afghan refugees in Iran via Turkmenistan, IRNA reported on 20 November. The move makes way for Iran to resume the repatriation of Afghan refugees under UNHCR supervision, a process that was halted two months ago for security reasons. -- Lowell Bezanis [As of 1200 CET] Compiled by Penny Morvant 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. To subscribe, send "SUBSCRIBE OMRI-L YourFirstName YourLastName" (without the quotation marks and inserting your name where shown) to LISTSERV@UBVM.CC.BUFFALO.EDU No subject line or other text should be included. To receive the OMRI Daily Digest by mail or fax, please direct inquiries to OMRI Publications, Na Strzi 63, 140 62 Prague 4, Czech Republic; or electronically to OMRIPUB@OMRI.CZ Tel.: (42-2) 6114 2114; fax: (42-2) 426 396 Please note that there is a new procedure for obtaining permission to reprint or redistribute the OMRI Daily Digest. Before reprinting or redistributing this publication, please write firstname.lastname@example.org for a copy of the new policy or look at this URL: http://www.omri.cz/Publications/Digests/DigestReprint.html OMRI also publishes the biweekly journal Transition, which contains expanded analysis of many of the topics in the Daily Digest. For Transition subscription information send an e-mail to TRANSITION@OMRI.CZ Copyright (C) 1995 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. ISSN 1211-1570
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