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No. 233, Part I, 1 December 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/Index.html ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^TODAY'S TOP STORY^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ YELTSIN CONCERNED ABOUT FEDERATION COUNCIL LAW, DUMA TO HOLD SPECIAL SESSION. President Boris Yeltsin sent a letter to both houses of the parliament expressing his concern about their inability to agree on how to form the next Federation Council. Yeltsin is worried that the current Council will no longer be legitimate after its term runs out on 12 December, two years after the previous elections. Yeltsin proposed that the speakers of both houses find a compromise agreement in consultation with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and Central Electoral Commission Chairman Nikolai Ryabov, ITAR-TASS reported on 30 November. The Duma will hold an extraordinary session on 5 December to discuss the Council's 28 November rejection of its version of the law. -- Robert Orttung ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIA COMMUNISTS GAIN AS SUPPORT FOR AGRARIANS WEAKENS. In a 30 November meeting with President Yeltsin, Chief of Staff Sergei Filatov informed him of polls conducted by the administration's analytical center which show that the Communists are gaining popularity because rural residents prefer them to Agrarian Party leader Mikhail Lapshin. Filatov said there is no guarantee that the Communists will preserve democratic electoral procedures in the future simply because they won power democratically, ITAR-TASS reported on 30 November. A VCIOM poll published in Izvestiya on 1 December predicts that the Communists will win 28-31% of the 225 seats determined by party-list voting, while the Agrarians will not cross the 5% barrier necessary to win seats in the Duma. -- Robert Orttung SATAROV ON POSSIBLE ELECTION OUTCOMES. Presidential adviser Georgii Satarov told RFE/RL on 1 December that only the Communist Party, Yabloko, Our Home Is Russia, and the Congress of Russian Communities have good chances of winning at least 5% of the vote nationwide, and no more than five parties in all will do well enough to gain Duma seats from party lists. Satarov did not rule out a possible cabinet reshuffle in the event of a poor showing by Our Home Is Russia, but he said "Yeltsin does not like to make decisions under pressure." He also said the authority of the current Federation Council is likely to be extended, since the upper house of parliament recently rejected a third version of the law on its formation. -- Laura Belin in Moscow YELTSIN NOMINATED TO RUN FOR SECOND TERM. A group of supporters have put forward President Yeltsin's name as a candidate in the June 1996 presidential elections, Russian and Western media reported on 30 November. The initiative group of more than 200 people from 25 regions was formed by the presidential representative in Moscow, Vladimir Komchatov, who said that only Yeltsin could preserve the country's stability and prevent a return to the communist past. Presidential aide Georgii Satarov said Yeltsin would not decide whether to run in the presidential poll until after the December parliamentary election, Reuters reported. Russian Public TV (ORT) reported that the Central Electoral Commission rejected the application documents it received from Vladimir Voronin, head of the TIBET Association of Investors and the first person to put his name up for the presidential elections, saying they were incorrectly prepared. -- Anna Paretskaya CONSTITUTIONAL COURT ANNULLED KALININGRAD OBLAST DUMA IMMUNITY DECREE. The Constitutional Court has decided to annul the recent Kaliningrad Oblast Duma's decision to grant its members immunity from prosecution, saying it violated federal laws, ITAR-TASS and Russian Public TV (ORT) reported on 30 November. The court ruled that the local legislature does not have the authority to grant immunity. Federal law extends immunity to Federal Assembly deputies, but the status of local deputies is not specified. -- Anna Paretskaya PRESIDENT OF YAKUTIYA AGAINST REFERENDUM ON PROLONGING HIS TERM. The president of the Sakha Republic (Yakutiya), Mikhail Nikolaev, asked the republican Federal Assembly to cancel its decision to hold a referendum on the extension of the president's term of office until the year 2001, Radio Rossii reported on 30 November. The Federal Assembly had decided to hold a referendum on 16 November after 204,000 signatures were collected in its support (see OMRI Daily Digest, 17 November 1995). -- Anna Paretskaya KHASBULATOV TO RUN FOR CHECHEN HEAD OF STATE. On 30 November, former Russian parliament speaker and head of the People's Union for the Rebirth of the Chechen Republic Ruslan Khasbulatov officially registered as a candidate in the 17 December Chechen elections for a new head of state, NTV reported. Chechen Prime Minister Doku Zavgaev, the only other registered candidate, has invited Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev and guerrilla commander Shamil Basaev to run against him, according to Rossiiskaya gazeta on 30 November. -- Liz Fuller RUSSO-CHINESE BORDER ADJUSTMENT COMPLETED. The survey of the final segment of the long-disputed Russo-Chinese border in Primorsk Krai was completed on 30 November, Russian and Western agencies reported. Fulfilling the terms of the 1991 Soviet-Chinese border agreement, the survey resulted in the transfer to China of about 1,500 hectares of territory formerly claimed by Russia, adjusting the border in various locations from five to 350 meters in favor of China. According to ITAR- TASS, the population in the border regions of Primorsk Krai are unhappy with this transfer of "Russian land" to China, and have complained about the loss of valuable cedar forests and hunting areas. Primorsk Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko has opposed the implementation of the border agreement, and will likely use the issue in his campaign for re-election next year. -- Scott Parrish GRACHEV AND CHERNOMYRDIN CLASH OVER SACKING. An article in Rossiiskaya gazeta on 1 December reported that Defense Minister Pavel Grachev and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin disagree over the sacking of Col. Gen. Vasilii Vorobev, who served as budget director of the Defense Ministry (see OMRI Daily Digest, 27 November 1995). Grachev told a recent meeting of the Defense Ministry collegium that he could not understand why Vorobev had been removed and added that he had been fully satisfied with the budget director's work. That comment drew a sharp reaction from Chernomyrdin, who reportedly "expressed great surprise" at Grachev's statement. Chernomyrdin and Grachev have frequently had public disagreements on policy issues in the past. -- Scott Parrish RUSSIA REPAYS ITS FINNISH DEBTS BY ARMS. Finnish Defense Minister Anneli Taina announced that Russia would supply Finland with advanced SA-11 air defense systems worth 1 billion Finnish markka ($238 million) to reduce part of its 5.5 billion markka debt to Finland (see OMRI Daily Digest, 16 November 1995), ITAR-TASS reported on 30 November. The missiles will be used by air defense forces in the Helsinki region. No date has been set for repaying the remaining debt. -- Constantine Dmitriev GRACHEV IN ISRAEL. Defense Minister Pavel Grachev began a five-day visit in Israel by signing a bilateral military cooperation agreement with Israeli Prime Prime Minister and Defense Minister Shimon Peres on 1 December, ITAR-TASS reported. The agreement provides for exchanges between Russian and Israeli military personnel and also expands the scope of Russo-Israeli military-technical cooperation under an April 1994 agreement. It also calls for Israel to purchase military transport aircraft from Russia, and Israel has reportedly expressed interest in jointly producing weapons for export to third countries. While in Israel, Grachev will also discuss the Middle East peace process, of which Russia is a co-sponsor, with Israeli officials. -- Scott Parrish TRADE UNION DAY OF ACTION. Thousands of workers across Russia took part in meetings and demonstrations on 30 November as part of a day of action called by the Federation of Independent Trade Unions (FNPR) to protest wage arrears and rising unemployment. The form of action and the number of people who participated varied considerably from region to region. There were no demonstrations in Moscow, St. Petersburg, or Novgorod, according to Russian Public TV (ORT). According to the FNPR, workers are owed 11.5 trillion rubles ($2.5 billion) in wage arrears, up from 8 trillion in September. It estimates open and "hidden" unemployment at about 15% of the working-age population. According to International Labor Organization criteria, the unemployment rate is 8.1%. -- Penny Morvant MINERS DEMAND ADDITIONAL 500 BILLION RUBLES. At a meeting in Moscow on 30 November, the Coal Industry Workers' Union demanded another 500 billion rubles ($110 million) from the government in order to cover unpaid wages, ITAR-TASS reported. The previous day, the government had announced the allocation of an additional 500 billion to the coal industry, but union leaders say that sum is insufficient and are planning a day of protest on 6 December. However, the regional strike due to begin on 1 December in Vorkuta has been called off. -- Penny Morvant RUBLE TO BE DEVALUED . . . The ruble corridor has been extended for the six months beginning on 1 January, and the ruble will be allowed to float between 4,550 and 5,150 to $1, instead of the present 4,300-4,900 band, NTV reported on 30 November. That means the ruble will be allowed to devalue by up to 13%. First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais and others oppose devaluation because it will tend to increase inflation. (New figures for November show inflation to be holding at 4.5% per month.) Exporters want the ruble to fall in order to restore their profitability, and had strong support from certain ministers. That probably explains why the decision was announced at a televised meeting in President Yeltsin's sanitarium, rather than at the usual Thursday government meeting. The move can be seen as a compromise in that it simply keeps the same width as the current corridor (600 rubles) and takes the current market exchange rate as the new floor. -- Peter Rutland . . . AND EXPORT DUTIES CUT. In another step aimed at helping exporters, President Yeltsin signed a decree abolishing from 1 December all export duties on refined oil and timber products, ITAR-TASS reported on 30 November. From 1 January 1996, export duties on all other products will be scrapped, except those on crude oil, gas, and some industrial goods, on which export duties will be halved. The government is responding to the fact that crude oil exports fell 5.1% in the first 10 months of this year, Interfax reported on 22 November. The tax on crude oil exports is currently 20 ecu per metric ton. The duty on gas exports was increased in early November from 2 ecu to 5 ecu per 1,000 cubic meters. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA MAJORITY OF PEOPLE IN KAZAKHSTAN AGAINST CUTS IN RUSSIAN PROGRAMMING. Nearly 70% of respondents to a recent poll in Kazakhstan said they are against cuts in Russian television broadcasts, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 November. The results of the poll, conducted in 88 towns and villages throughout Kazakhstan, show that not only the Russian population (about 36% of the population of Kazakhstan) is against the cuts, but 58% of Kazakhs polled also want the broadcasts restored. In the capital, Almaty, 88% of respondents opposed cuts and 17% said they want more than what they used to receive. The Kazakhstani government reduced the amount of Russian programming in October to eight and a half hours daily from Russian Public TV (ORT) and five hours daily from the Russian TV Channel. -- Bruce Pannier ASIAN DEVELOPMENT BANK EXTENDS $120 MILLION CREDIT TO KAZAKHSTAN. The Asian Development Bank has agreed to give $120 million in credit to Kazakhstan to fund agricultural and educational development, Interfax reported on 28 November. The bank's representative in Kazakhstan, Roza Savadskaya, said $100 million is slated for agriculture and the remainder for education. Sadavskaya also added that if formalities are taken care of quickly, half of the money for agriculture could arrive before the end of 1995, and the rest after the new year. -- Bruce Pannier UNESCO TO FUND RENOVATION OF HISTORIC CITIES IN UZBEKISTAN. The UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has begun a fundraising campaign to restore the historic sections of Samarkand, Bukhara, and Khiva, AFP reported on 30 November. The immediate goal of the project is to raise $20 million at a conference to be held in Tashkent for the initial work in Samarkand. Michael Lane, a UNESCO representative, noted that the renovation will include not just monuments and mosques, such as the Registan in Samarkand, but the caravanserais and shops around them that were neglected during the Soviet era. -- 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. 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. 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