|Upon the education of the people of this country the fate of this country depends. - Benjamin Disraeli 1804-1881|
No. 242, Part I, 14 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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ CHERNOMYRDIN: GOVERNMENT WILL STAY REGARDLESS OF ELECTION OUTCOME. At a press conference held to mark the three-year anniversary of his appointment as prime minister, Viktor Chernomyrdin said his government of "professionals" had made progress toward stabilizing the economy and would continue those policies regardless of the outcome of upcoming elections to the State Duma, Russian media reported on 13 December. He noted that under the constitution the president, not parliament, chooses the head of the cabinet, and a new government need only be appointed upon the election of a new president, not a new parliament. However, there may be a government reshuffle after the election. In January 1994, Yegor Gaidar, Boris Fedorov, and Ella Pamfilova left the cabinet following the disappointing performance of Russia's Choice in the December 1993 parliamentary elections. -- Laura Belin ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIA BONNER BEGS SMALL DEMOCRATIC PARTIES TO DROP OUT. Anxiety within Russia's "democratic camp" about their bleak electoral prospects continues to grow. The last day that opinion polls could be published before the elections was 13 December, and polls suggest that none of the democratic electoral blocs (except Yabloko) may make it over the 5% threshold. Former dissident Yelena Bonner, widow of Andrei Sakharov, appealed to four small democratic blocs to withdraw from the party-list ballot and support either Yabloko or Russia's Democratic Choice-United Democrats, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. So far none of the four bloc leaders, Irina Khakamada (Common Cause), Ella Pamfilova (Pamfilova- Gurov-V. Lysenko), Konstantin Borovoi (Party of Economic Freedom), and Gavriil Popov (Social-Democrats), have accepted Bonner's suggestion. -- Laura Belin DIRTY TRICKS DEPARTMENT. Russian Public TV reported on 13 December that a "dirty tricks" entrepreneur had approached an unnamed election candidate and offered his services--such as $1,500-7,000 to arrange a car accident or $5,000-15,000 for bombing a campaign office. Meanwhile, the Russian TV show "Podrobnosti" ran a video tape featuring Duma Deputy Igor Bratishchev, a university professor and one of the authors of the Communist Party economics program, in a police drunk tank in Rostov. The tape showed an officer trying to get a drunken and abusive Bratishchev to give his address so that he could be taken home. -- Peter Rutland FIRST INITIATIVE GROUP FOR PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS REGISTERED. The Central Electoral Commission (TsIK) has registered the first initiative group for the 1996 presidential elections, which supports National Association of Russian Trade Unions Chairman Aleksandr Alekseev for the presidency, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 December. The association is a completely independent body that criticizes the government as well as reform-oriented parties and the Communists. The group can now start to collect the 1 million signatures required for the candidate's registration. TsIK Chairman Nikolai Ryabov said the group supporting former Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoi would be considered next. Last month, the TsIK rejected the application documents it received from Vladimir Voronin, head of the TIBET Association of Investors (see OMRI Daily Digest, 1 December 1995). -- Anna Paretskaya JOURNALIST KILLED IN CHECHNYA. Shamkhan Kagirov, a journalist for the official government newspaper Rossiiskaya gazeta and the local newspaper Vozrozhdenie, which supports the pro-Moscow Chechen government, was killed 40 km outside the Chechen capital Grozny on 12 December, ITAR- TASS reported the next day. He was the 13th journalist killed since the war in Chechnya began. The same day, unidentified individuals shot at the Russian Public TV (ORT) film crew near Grozny, injuring the cameraman. -- Anna Paretskaya IRKUTSK LEGISLATURE EXTENDS ITS TERM. The Irkutsk Oblast Legislative Assembly approved a two-year extension of its term by a vote of 31-10 on the grounds that current legislation on regional administration and local self-government is inadequate, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 December. The assembly's decision is in accordance with the 18 September presidential decree setting elections to regional legislatures for December 1997. The current assembly was elected to a two-year term in March 1994. -- Anna Paretskaya CORRUPTION CHARGES AGAINST RUTSKOI OFFICIALLY DROPPED. The Procurator's Office has officially dropped corruption charges against former Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoi, Interfax reported on 13 December, citing sources within the procuracy. The case against Rutskoi, who now heads the Derzhava political movement, was closed due to the "absence of a crime." The affair began in the summer of 1993, when Rutskoi, then a leader of the parliamentary opposition to President Yeltsin, and allies of the president were trading corruption allegations. A presidential anti-corruption commission accused Rutskoi of diverting state funds to a Swiss bank account among other crimes, but the Moscow Procurator's Office dismissed the charges as groundless in January 1994, concluding that they had been trumped-up. Rutskoi told Interfax on 13 December that he hoped the procurator-general would investigate those who initiated the corruption accusations, which he called a "dirty political provocation." -- Penny Morvant CHERNOMYRDIN LEAVES FOR PARIS. Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin left for Paris on 14 December to attend the signing of the Dayton accord on Bosnia, ITAR-TASS reported. Before leaving for Paris, Chernomyrdin welcomed the release of two captured French pilots and expressed hope that Russo-French cooperation would continue. In a 13 December press conference, Chernomyrdin criticized recent statements by U.S. Ambassador to Russia Thomas Pickering about the ownership of the South Kurils, and said that Russia and Japan would resolve the problem on their own without any prompting from Pickering. (see OMRI Daily Digest, 11 December 1995). -- Constantine Dmitriev JAPANESE MINISTER MAKES GESTURE TOWARDS SOUTH KURILS. According to a Japanese newspaper, the Japanese Minister for Post and Telegraph Issei Inoue announced his intention to introduce the Japanese domestic postal rates for all letters to the South Kurils, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 December. In response, a ministry official told ITAR-TASS that the minister actually meant to say that the new tariffs would be introduced after the return of the South Kurils. -- Constantine Dmitriev RUSSIAN PLANES CRASH IN VIETNAM. Three Russian Su-27 fighters returning home from an air show in Malaysia crashed in Vietnam, Russian and Western agencies reported on 13 December. The planes appear to have crashed into a mountain in bad weather while trying to land on 12 December, and their pilots are presumed dead. Russian and Vietnamese teams continue to search for the missing jets. The SU 27 is one of the world's most advanced fighter aircraft, worth some $20 million per plane. -- Constantine Dmitriev RUSSIA DELIVERS ROCKET SYSTEM TO KUWAIT. A Russian delegation is in Kuwait to turn over the "Smerch" ("Tornado") multiple rocket launcher systems that Kuwait purchased in 1994, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 December. Col. Gen. Nikolai Dimidyuk, the commander of artillery for the Ground Troops, said, "After Russia, Kuwait is the first country in the world to be armed with this state-of-the art, unique, and promising piece of military technology." The "Smerch," or BM-30 system, has 12 300-mm rockets mounted on a truck chassis. The Kuwaiti crews were trained in St. Petersburg to fire the missiles. -- Doug Clarke NORWAY TO HELP WITH RUSSIAN NUCLEAR WASTE. Norwegian Defense Minister Joergen Kosmo, on a state visit to Moscow, told his Russian counterpart, Pavel Grachev, that Norway wants to help Russia dispose of military nuclear waste, especially refuse from the nuclear-powered submarines laid up on the Kola Peninsula, Reuters reported on 13 December. Relations between Norway and Russia have been strained since Russian federal agents arrested members of a Norwegian environmental group which had been preparing a report on the Arctic region's nuclear waste. -- Doug Clarke TEACHERS CALL TWO-DAY STRIKE. At a press conference in Moscow on 13 December, leaders of the education workers' trade union announced a two- day national strike to be held on 14 and 15 December, Russian TV and Express-khronikha reported. As was the case during the one-day warning strike on 26 September, in which about 400,000 people participated, the teachers are demanding the payment of back wages and a salary increase. Union Chairman Vladimir Yakovlev said that there had been no real improvement in the position of teachers following the September protest and that wages are overdue in four-fifths of Russia's regions. He said that some of the extra funds released by the government have not reached schools. Yakovlev warned that if the latest protest has no effect, education workers will begin a one-week strike on 30 January 1996. -- Penny Morvant PAYMENT OF PENSION ARREARS MAY SPARK INFLATION. In the run-up to the election, the government has made an effort to pay off all pension arrears, which had risen to 17 trillion rubles ($3.7 billion), according to Moskovskii komsomolets on 14 December. President Yeltsin announced that part of the money would be raised through the sale of gold reserves, but Obshchaya gazeta reported on 7 December reported that no gold had actually been sold. It had merely been transferred to the Central Bank in return for loans, which is potentially inflationary. Meanwhile, the government is trying to blame continuing delays in pension payments on corruption in local pension funds. -- Peter Rutland RUSSIAN BANKS SEEK ACCESS TO U.S. During a recent trip to the U.S., Association of Russian Banks head Sergei Yegorov hired a public relations firm to combat the money-laundering image of Russian banks, Ekonomika i zhizn reported in issue no. 49. Only one bank (Vneshekonombank) is currently allowed to operate in the U.S. Yegorov said that U.S. regulators are concerned by the weakness of Russian Central Bank monitoring of commercial banks, and the fact that their capital reserves are below those mandated by the Basel convention. Since the beginning of the year, Russian commercial banks have transferred funds amounting to $7.2 billion out of Russia. -- Peter Rutland RUSSIA PLANS TO SWAP FOREIGN DEBT FOR SHARES. The acting head of the State Property Committee, Alfred Kokh, said Russia would like to swap part of its $130 billion foreign debt for shares in Russian companies, Reuters reported on 13 December. However, such a scheme is unlikely to be implemented before 1997, one problem being that the total market value of all Russian companies' equities at present is a mere $6-7 billion. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA MORE ON BBC CORRESPONDENT MURDERED IN TAJIKISTAN. The reasons for the 12 December murder of BBC correspondent Muhiddin Olimpur remain unclear. Reports from Western agencies indicate Olimpur was shot several times near the state university of Tajikistan in Dushanbe. One Tajik official told ITAR-TASS the killing was "clearly" the work of political opponents of the regime, while a spokesman for the Tajik opposition, Ali Akbar Turajonzoda, told Interfax Olimpur "had no political enemies" and attributed the correspondent's death to bandits. However, the murderer did not steal Olimpur's documents or his gold ring, according to Western agencies. Russian Public TV (ORT) reported on 13 December that Olimpur had belonged to a moderate wing of the opposition since 1990. Almost all sources describe Olimpur as a popular figure in Tajikistan and one of the few journalists who stayed in the country to cover events throughout the civil war. -- Bruce Pannier BREAD PRICES TRIPLE IN TAJIKISTAN. The price of bread and related products such as flour have tripled after prices were liberated on 11 December, according to a Tajik Radio report cited by the BBC on the same day. According to the report prices now "depend on the cost of transport, processing and sales." The increases come in the wake of an announcement in November that electricity use would be rationed to six hours a day per household until April. -- Bruce Pannier COMPENSATION FOR VICTIMS OF INVESTMENT FRAUD IN KYRGYZSTAN. President Askar Akayev has decreed that citizens who lost money in illegal investment schemes will be compensated with privatization coupons, according to a Kyrgyz Radio report monitored by the BBC. The government has been ordered to issue the coupons before 15 January 1996. Besides compensating those who were cheated in the investment deals, the coupons are seen as a way of improving non-state support for citizens, shareholders, and depositors in Kyrgyzstan. The timing could not be better as such schemes have especially affected people with low incomes. Kyrgyz Tuusu reported on 5 December that the minimum monthly salary in the republic is about $6.40 and the minimum monthly pension is about $6. -- Bruce Pannier [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. Before reprinting or redistributing this publication, please write email@example.com 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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