|Fear of life in one form or another is the great thing to exorcise. - William James|
No. 243, Part I, 15 December 1995
************************************************************************ Do you need sharply focused economic news? OMRI's weekly Economic Digest provides thorough coverage of business and financial developments throughout the region. This week's edition includes stories on the successful privatization of Hungarian utilities, and a record-low weekly inflation rate in Russia. For subscription and rate information, please send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org *********************************************************************** 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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ FIGHTING BREAKS OUT IN CHECHNYA. The tenuous six-month ceasefire in Chechnya came to an end on 14 December when Chechen forces took the town of Gudermes and repulsed an attempt by Russian federal troops to dislodge them, Russian media reported. Up to 16 Russian servicemen were killed in the fighting. Also on 14 December, voting began in Chechnya for the Russian State Duma and for a new Chechen republican leader; District Electoral Commission Chairman Abdulkerim Arsakhanov told Russian TV that 45% of the registered voters in Grozny had cast their votes. -- Liz Fuller ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIA GROUP NOMINATING RUTSKOI FOR PRESIDENT DENIED REGISTRATION. Last month, Aleksandr Rutskoi successfully appealed to the Supreme Court to overturn the Central Electoral Commission's (TsIK) 28 October refusal to register his Derzhava movement for the parliamentary elections. Now the TsIK has denied registration to an initiative group supporting Rutskoi for president in 1996, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported on 14 December. TsIK Chairman Nikolai Ryabov said some of Rutskoi's supporters had not filled out the documents correctly, listing their places of residence as "Moscow" without indicating their precise addresses. -- Laura Belin RYABOV: ELECTION PREPARATIONS COMPLETE. Ryabov also announced on 14 December that the TsIK's preparations for the 17 December parliamentary elections are complete, Russian TV reported. He said 96,000 regional, local, and district electoral commissions have been created, and that 50,000 observers (including 900 international observers) will monitor their activities on 17 December. Ryabov predicted a high turnout, and Russian TV said the presidential administration believes that more than 60% of eligible voters will participate in the elections. Turnout in December 1993 was officially put at 54%, but that figure is widely believed to have been inflated by fraud. -- Laura Belin COMMUNIST OBJECTS TO VIDEO OF DRUNK DEPUTY. Duma Deputy Eduard Kovalev of the Communist Party (KPRF) complained that the 13 December Russian TV program "Podrobnosti" attempted to "compromise" the Communists on the eve of parliamentary elections by showing a video of KPRF Duma Deputy Igor Bratishchev in police custody while drunk, Russian TV reported on 14 December. Kovalev said the footage of Bratishchev, one of the authors of the KPRF economic program, was filmed three years ago, in 1992. -- Laura Belin LAST-MINUTE DEBATE PREPARATIONS. The KPRF has apparently agreed to debate Yegor Gaidar on live television on 15 December, the last day campaign appearances by politicians will be allowed in the mass media. Gaidar told Russian TV on 14 December that he would like to face KPRF Duma Deputy Anatolii Lukyanov, and that the debate may take place on Russian Public TV (ORT) at 7:30 p.m.. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, who had previously declined offers to debate Grigorii Yavlinskii, announced on 14 December that he is now prepared to debate the Yabloko leader, NTV reported. It was not clear whether a debate could be arranged on such short notice. -- Laura Belin KORZHAKOV URGES RUSSIANS TO VOTE . . . In a rare public appearance, Aleksandr Korzhakov, head of the presidential security service, urged Russians to vote in the Duma elections in order to prevent a Communist victory. He said he intended to vote for Ivan Rybkin, head of a flagging center-left bloc set up with the president's blessing, while his wife would opt for Viktor Chernomyrdin's Our Home Is Russia. Korzhakov, who is believed to exert considerable influence over the president, spent much of the interview reminiscing about his years in Yeltsin's service. He said Yeltsin would decide in February whether to run for the presidency again. Yeltsin, who has not made any public pronouncements for several days, is due to give a taped television address later today. -- Penny Morvant . . . AND CRITICIZES DEFENSE MINISTER. Asked what he thought of Defense Minister Pavel Grachev, Korzhakov was hardly effusive in his praise. "Pavel Sergeevich loves his wife very much," he said. "Pavel Sergeevich loves his children very much. Pavel Sergeevich loves his friends very much. As a commander, Pavel Sergeevich is very good at giving reports, but he's particularly talented at staging parades." Grachev, who is widely believed to have persuaded Yeltsin to launch the military operation in Chechnya, has been heavily criticized in many quarters but has managed to retain Yeltsin's support. Korzhakov also said he would vote for Yurii Luzhkov if he ran again for the office of Moscow mayor, but would not support him if he ran for the presidency in 1996. -- Penny Morvant GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE QUITS RACE IN PRIMORSK KRAI. Former Primorsk Krai Legislative Chairman Igor Lebedinets, who is one of the top candidates in the krai's gubernatorial elections, has dropped out of the race, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 December. Lebedinets asked his supporters to vote for former Vladivostok Mayor Viktor Cherepkov. Lebedinets and Cherepkov hope that together they can defeat current Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko. The gubernatorial election will take place on 17 December. Meanwhile, on 14 December, the krai legislature asked the federal parliament to postpone legislative elections in the region until October 1996 on the grounds that local legislation has not been harmonized with the federal law on local self-government, Radio Rossii reported. According to an 18 September presidential decree, local legislatures must hold elections by March 1996. -- Anna Paretskaya CHUVASHIYA TO HOLD REFERENDUM ON PRESIDENCY. Chuvash Republic President Nikolai Fedorov ordered the government to allocate money to the 17 December republican referendum on whether the republic needs a president, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 December. Fedorov said he has been forced to allocate money to the referendum, despite the fact that he himself considers it to be an opposition ploy. The Federal Council of Chuvashiya voted to hold the referendum two month ago after a group of citizens submitted the number of signatures necessary to make a request for such a vote. -- Anna Paretskaya SEGODNYA COMMENTATOR BLASTS THOMAS PICKERING. Pavel Felgengauer, a Segodnya expert on military issues, argued in a front page commentary published on 14 December, that U.S. Ambassador to Russia Thomas Pickering's remarks on the South Kurils problem reflect a calculated effort to worsen U.S.-Russian relations. Felgengauer argues that as a "career diplomat," Pickering could never say anything "off-the-cuff," indicating that there are "influential advocates of bad relations with Moscow" within the U.S. administration. -- Constantine Dmitriev LAVROV: RUSSIA IS AGAINST MULTINATIONAL ARMED FORCES IN BOSNIA. The permanent spokesman for Russia at the UN, Sergei Lavrov, told journalists on 14 December that Russia welcomes a UN peacekeeping force in Eastern Slavonia but opposes a multinational coalition armed force in that region, ITAR-TASS reported. With regard to the UN secretary general's recent proposal to send a 9,300-strong multinational division to Eastern Slavonia instead of the 1,600 Russian and Belgian soldiers stationed there, Lavrov said that a resolution of the UN Security Council calls for a UN force in that region. -- Constantine Dmitriev TEACHERS RESPOND TO STRIKE CALL. Teachers in many Russian regions, including St. Petersburg, Arkhangel Oblast, Krasnodar Krai, and Buryatiya, went on strike on 14 December to demand more money for the education sector (see OMRI Daily Digest, 14 December 1995). Teachers in other areas, including Moscow, took part in demonstrations in support of their colleagues, ITAR-TASS reported. Unions say the government owes the education sector 550 billion rubles ($118 million) and that some teachers have not been paid since the new school year began. Nevertheless, the strike call was not heeded in every region, apparently because local officials had already taken steps to meet the teachers demands. Education Minister Yevgenii Tkachenko blamed the difficult situation in some regions on the attitude of local governors, saying some "simply pay no attention to education," according to ORT. -- Penny Morvant BANKS CONTINUE TO DISPUTE YUKOS AUCTION. The president of Inkombank, Vladimir Vinogradov, announced that the three-bank consortium which was barred from bidding for shares in YUKOS, Russia's second largest oil company, will take the case to court, NTV reported on 14 December. Vinogradov refuted suggestions that the government might retaliate against Inkombank by taking away key clients such as Transneft and Rosvooruzhenie, which control oil pipelines and arms exports. The latest news belies an earlier report that Menatep, ONEKSIMbank, and MFK, the winners in the loan/share auctions, had struck a deal with their adversaries. Segodnya reported on 9 December that they had agreed to form a consortium with Alfabank, Rossiiskii kredit and Inkombank which would sell 24% of the shares in the three privatized enterprises to foreign investors. -- Peter Rutland INSIDER DEALS SEAL SHARE AUCTIONS. On 13 December, 20% of the shares of the Novorossiisk shipping company were auctioned under the government's loan scheme, Segodnya reported on 14 December. Novoship, a firm created by the shipping company itself, offered a loan of $22 million guaranteed by Tokobank, beating out rival bids from Menatep Bank and ONEKISMbank. The auction of shares in the Arkhangel fleet, also due to take place on 13 December, was canceled due to the lack of bids. Kommersant reported on 14 December that Menatep bought 51% of the shares in the Kareliyan wood processing firm Pitkyarant for $20 million, in an auction organized by Menatep. -- Peter Rutland TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA MANDATE OF UN OBSERVERS IN TAJIKISTAN EXTENDED. The UN Security Council voted unanimously on 14 December to extend the mandate of the UN observer mission in Tajikistan by another six months, according to RFE/RL. The 40-member mission's term was due to expire on 15 December. The extension hinges on whether the Tajik government and opposition continue to show progress in achieving peace in the republic -- Bruce Pannier KYRGYZ COURT BARS THREE CANDIDATES FROM ELECTION. The Kyrgyz High Court has narrowed the field of candidates competing in the 24 December presidential election from six to three, RFE/RL and Radio Mayak reported. The court ruled on 13 December to bar Deputy Prime Minister Jumgalbek Amanbayev, Ata Meken member Omurbek Tekebayev, and independent candidate Mamat Aybalayev from participating in the election because of mistakes on their registration applications. The court claims that the amount of signatures collected by the candidates in some regions exceeds the number of voters and that some of the signatures were not approved by the regional councils. The three remaining candidates are President Askar Akayev, former parliament speaker Medetken Sherimkulov, and Communist Party leader Absamat Masaliev. -- Bruce Pannier INFLATION MAY BE RETURNING IN KYRGYZSTAN. The monthly inflation rate jumped from 1.1% in October to 2.6% in November, Interfax reported on 13 December. The Kyrgyz National Statistics Committee attributed the rise to "seasonal factors," a 3.8% increase in food prices, and a 1.3% rise in tariffs on services. Over the first 11 months of 1995, however, consumer prices rose by only 27.6%, compared with an 80.6% rise during the same period in 1994. -- Bruce Pannier KAZAKHSTAN JOINS THE ISLAMIC ORGANIZATION. Representatives of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) voted unanimously on 12 December to accept Kazakhstan as a member, according to a Saudi Arabian news agency (SPA) report cited by the BBC. Kazakhstan becomes the 52nd member and fifth former Soviet republic--along with Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Azerbaijan--to be accepted into the organization. -- Bruce Pannier FORMER GEORGIAN DEPUTY SECRET SERVICE CHIEF GIVES TESTIMONY. Former Georgian Deputy Secret Service Chief Temur Khachishvili, a member of the dissolved paramilitary organization Mkhedrioni, gave testimony in the case in which he is charged with involvement in the 29 August attempted assassination of Georgian leader Eduard Shevardnadze, Russian media reported on 14 December. Khachishvili said that former security chief Igor Giorgadze and Mkhedrioni leader Dzhaba Ioseliani organized the assassination attempt. Ioseliani has been in custody since 15 November, while Giorgadze has escaped from prison (see OMRI Daily Digest, 16 November 1995). -- Irakli Tsereteli [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. 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