|Vremya dlya schast'ya - sejchas. Mesto dlya schast'ya - zdes'. - Robert Grin Igersoll|
No. 239, Part I, 11 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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS IN KAZAKHSTAN. The 9 December elections to Kazakhstan's lower house of parliament (Majilis) failed to fill one- third of the chamber's seats, Russian and Western agencies reported. Despite turnout estimated by the government at 78%, run-off elections will have to be held in the 23 seats where the winning candidate received less than 50% of the vote. The 43 deputies elected are two short of the number required to form a quorum. One district, Kostanai, has been delayed in turning in its results because of heavy snowfall. (See related story in Transcaucasia and Central Asian section below). -- Bruce Pannier ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIA FEDERATION COUNCIL'S AUTHORITY EXTENDED FOR ONE MONTH. At what was planned to be its final session on 9 December, the Federation Council acted on President Boris Yeltsin's request not to suspend its legislative work and voted to extend its authority until a new Council meets in January, Russian and Western agencies reported. Council Speaker Vladimir Shumeiko told NTV the same day that the Council will consider the 1996 budget and other laws recently passed by the State Duma on 19 December. Also on 9 December, the Council approved an appeal to the Constitutional Court questioning the legality of the law on the Council's formation (see OMRI Daily Digest, 7 December 1995). -- Laura Belin DUMA PASSES LAW ON POLITICAL PARTIES. Russia's so-called "divan parties," in which all the members could fit on a single sofa, may become a thing of the past under a law on political parties passed by the State Duma on 8 December. The law stipulates that only a group of at least 100 people can found a political party, ITAR-TASS reported. Parties that seek to violently change the constitutional order or to violate the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation would be prohibited, as would the creation of armed groups or parties that promote racial, ethnic, or religious hatred. The law has been sent to the Federation Council for approval. -- Laura Belin FEDERATION COUNCIL APPROVES LAW SUSPENDING TV AND RADIO PRIVATIZATION. Also on 9 December, the Federation Council approved by a vote of 96 to two a law suspending the reorganization, privatization, and liquidation of state-owned television and radio companies, as well as the transfer of state property to private television or radio companies, until a special federal law is adopted on the matter, Russian media reported. A similar law was passed by parliament last spring but vetoed by President Yeltsin in June. The law specifically targets 51% state-owned Russian Public Television (ORT), which was created under a November 1994 presidential decree restructuring the fully state-owned Ostankino television and radio company. ORT took over Channel 1 broadcasting privileges on 1 April; a 6 October presidential decree ordered the liquidation of Ostankino (see OMRI Daily Digest, 9 October 1995). -- Laura Belin NO FAVORITES YET IN PRESIDENTIAL RACE. A poll by VCIOM found that there would be no clear favorite for the post of president if elections were held now, Interfax reported on 9 December. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov and Aleksandr Lebed each received the support of 6% of respondents, followed by 5% for eye-surgeon Svatoslav Fedorov, and 4% each for Boris Yeltsin, Grigorii Yavlinskii, and Vladimir Zhirinovsky. Such polls cast doubt on the argument that parties can use the Duma elections to launch their presidential candidates. Interfax also quoted Congress of Russian Communities leader Yurii Skokov as saying at a Moscow rally that his party has not yet decided which of its three leaders (Skokov, Lebed, and Sergei Glazev) to nominate for president. He said that choice will depend on the type of challenge facing the country by the time of next June's presidential elections--political, military, or economic. -- Peter Rutland ANNIVERSARY OF USSR'S END PASSES WITHOUT INCIDENT. The fourth anniversary of the Belovezhskaya agreement signed by Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus which brought an end to the USSR was marked on 8 December by a small group of demonstrators in central Moscow. The organizers, Working Russia, had anticipated a crowd of 20,000, NTV reported the same day. Stanislau Shushkevich, the former Belarusian leader, revealed that he had suggested inviting Mikhail Gorbachev to the meeting, but President Yeltsin vetoed the idea. -- Peter Rutland FEDERAL GOVERNMENT AND ORENBURG OBLAST SIGN ACCORD ON POWER SEPARATION. Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and Orenburg Oblast Governor Vladimir Yelagin signed an accord on the division of powers between the federal authorities an Orenburg in the areas of economic and agricultural policy, natural resources, international relations and trade, and military industries, ITAR-TASS and Russian TV reported on 9 December. Orenburg is the first oblast to sign such an agreement; previously, the federal government had only signed such accords with the Russian Federation's republics. Chernomyrdin said similar agreements will be signed with Krasnodar Krai and Sverdlovsk, Kaliningrad, and Murmansk oblasts. -- Anna Paretskaya NEGATIVE REACTION TO CHECHEN-RUSSIAN AGREEMENT. A spokesman for Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev condemned as "a provocation" the Russian- Chechen intergovernmental agreement signed on 8 December, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported on 9 December. Former Chechen Prime Minister Salambek Khadzhiev told NTV the agreement will exacerbate tensions in Chechnya and former Russian parliament speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov argued that Chechen Premier Doku Zavgaev is not empowered to sign the agreement on behalf of the Chechen people, Russian TV reported on 8 December. On 9 December, Khasbulatov withdrew his candidacy for the 17 December elections for a new Chechen republican leader, arguing that the vote would give rise to new bloodshed and "could split Chechnya into two parts," according to NTV. Also on 9 December, President Boris Yeltsin appealed to the Chechen people to participate in the 17 December elections which he termed crucial to the future stability of Chechnya. -- Liz Fuller U.S. AMBASSADOR'S REMARKS PROMPT PROTEST. The Foreign Ministry on 8 December formally protested remarks made by U.S. Ambassador Thomas Pickering during a recent visit to Sakhalin Island, Russian agencies reported. According to ITAR-TASS, Pickering said that the four southernmost islands in the Kuril chain are Japanese and should be peacefully transferred to Japan. Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Demurin told Interfax that Pickering's remarks represented unacceptable interference in Russian internal affairs and contradicted Washington's declared policy of partnership with Russia, although he acknowledged that the U.S. has long supported Japan's claim to the southern Kurils. -- Scott Parrish in Moscow and Constantine Dmitriev RUSSIA ASKS THE HAGUE TO FREEZE CASES AGAINST KARADZIC AND MLADIC. Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev told journalists that Russia has asked the International Tribunal in The Hague to put its cases against Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic on hold, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 December. Kozyrev also said that the Bosnian Serbs had asked Moscow to make the appeal. Russia called upon the tribunal to carefully re-examine the problem, taking all circumstances and facts into consideration. At the same time, Kozyrev said that Serbia should explain the fate of French pilots downed over Serbia if Belgrade does not want to find itself in international isolation. -- Constantine Dmitriev DUMA DEPUTY KILLED IN CAR CRASH. Vitalii Savitskii, the head of the Christian Democratic Union electoral bloc and a Duma deputy, was killed in a car crash in St. Petersburg on 10 December, ITAR-TASS reported. Savitskii was head of the Duma Committee on Religious Affairs and president of the Christian Democratic Union of Eastern Europe. He championed environmental causes in parliament and pressed for the revision of legislation on religion to crack down on sects such as Aum Shinri Kyo. Savitskii is the third candidate to die in the current election campaign. -- Penny Morvant ACTIVISTS BLAST RUSSIA'S HUMAN RIGHTS RECORD. Russia's human rights record has deteriorated significantly this year, according to a report released by Human Rights Watch at a Moscow news conference on 8 December. It said that the war in Chechnya was waged with "total disregard for humanitarian law" and accused the government of initiating "a backlash against human rights in legislation and in government institutions" and of failing to take steps to curb police brutality and abuse in the army, stop state-sponsored gender and racial discrimination, and improve the appalling conditions in Russian prisons, Reuters reported. Tatyana Kasatkina of the Russian human rights group Memorial said the backlash against civil liberties began after President Yeltsin used tanks to crush the rebellion in Moscow in October 1993. -- Penny Morvant FOREIGN MINISTRY DENIES ABM DEAL WITH U.S. At an 8 December Moscow news conference, Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Demurin refuted Western media reports that Russia and the U.S. had reached an agreement clarifying the terms of the 1972 ABM treaty, Interfax reported (see OMRI Daily Digest, 8 December 1995). Demurin said Russian and U.S. negotiators in the Standing Consultative Commission (SCC), which resolves disputes related to the treaty, are currently meeting in Geneva to hammer out mutually acceptable technical parameters specifying which defensive systems will be considered tactical and hence permitted under the treaty, and which will be considered strategic and thus banned. -- Scott Parrish in Moscow MENATEP GAINS CONTROL OF YUKOS. In an 8 December auction, Menatep bank acquired 78% of the shares in Yukos, Russia's second-largest oil company, through an intermediary company named Laguna, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 December. Laguna offered $150 million (guaranteed by Menatep) for a 33% stake in the investment auction and a $159 million credit (guaranteed by Menatep, Tokobank, and Stolichnyi bank) for a 45% stake in the loans-for-shares auction. The only rival bidder allowed was another Menatep-sponsored company, Reagent. Menatep was also the organizer of the auction. Under the terms of the tender, Menatep will have to invest a total of $350 million over three years: $200 million on reconstructing some 2,500 disused oil wells, $80 million on oil- refineries, and $60 million on storage facilities and gasoline stations. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA IRREGULARITIES IN KAZAKHSTAN ELECTIONS. Once again, international observers complained that there were many cases in Kazakhstan's 9 December elections where one individual voted for their entire family. Other observers said they were not allowed to watch the vote counting. Similar charges were considered by President Nursultan Nazarbayev as adequate grounds for disbanding the previous parliament in March 1995. The Communist Party complained that only nine of the 28 candidates they put forward received registration, while 38 candidates were registered for the Party of National Unity founded by Nazarbayev two years ago. Adding to voter confusion was the fact that ballots listed only the candidates' names, not their party affiliation. -- Bruce Pannier IRAN OPTS OUT OF SHAKH-DENIZ. Speaking at a conference in Tehran on 10 December, Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Mahmoud Vaezi stated that his country has rejected an offer from Azerbaijan to participate in the exploitation of the Caspian Sea's Shakh-Deniz oil and gas deposits as "unserious," AFP reported. Azerbaijan had solicited Iranian participation after initially caving in to U.S. pressure in April and withdrawing an offer to Iran to participate in the international consortium to develop a separate group of three major Caspian oil fields. Iran's Minister for Oil Gholamrezah Aghazadeh warned that the failure of Caspian littoral states to cooperate in exploiting the region's resources could increase tension and instability in the region but added that Iran will be guided by economic rather than political considerations in deciding on its participation in international projects, according to Interfax. -- Liz Fuller DEMIREL VISITS BAKU. Turkish President Suleyman Demirel paid a largely symbolic two-day official visit to Baku beginning on 7 December, Turkish and Azerbaijani media reported. Demirel signed one agreement with his Azerbaijani counterpart, Heidar Aliev, under which Turkey will provide Turkish-state television broadcasts to Azerbaijan. Demirel also met with opposition political leaders and visited refugees from Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. -- 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. 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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