|Wherever there is love, there is peace. - Burmese proverb|
No. 247, Part I, 21 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 SEES NO TRAGEDY IN ELECTION RESULTS. "There is no reason to worry or to view the elections as a tragedy," President Boris Yeltsin announced on 20 December at the Barvikha sanitarium. He was confident that the new Duma would not prevent him from carrying out his current political course, Radio Rossii reported on 20 December. He said that the majority in the Duma would support reforms and human rights because the Communists received 20%, Vladimir Zhirinovsky's party lost support in comparison to 1993, and the Agrarians did not even cross the 5% barrier. He warned that a return to Marxist ideology would be "criminal for Russia and Russians" and that he would "not allow it to happen." Meanwhile, a final count for the party-list vote had still not been announced by noon Moscow time on 21 December. -- Robert Orttung ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIA GAIDAR: DEMOCRATS MUST NOMINATE ONE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE. Russia's Democratic Choice leader Yegor Gaidar said he will not run for president in June 1996, NTV reported on 21 December. Instead, his party will work to unite all of Russia's pro-reform parties, including Our Home Is Russia, behind a common candidate. He predicted that the "Communist wave" rising in the country would be short-lived but warned that if democrats could not agree on a single presidential candidate, Russia would be left with a choice between Communist Party leader Zyuganov and Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky in the second round. -- Laura Belin SHAKHRAI TO LEAVE GOVERNMENT FOR DUMA. Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Shakhrai is planning to leave his position in the government to take his seat in the Duma, NTV reported on 20 December. He was elected in a Rostov-na-Donu constituency. Russian law prohibits simultaneous membership in the government and Duma. Although Shakhrai's government position is more powerful than being a Duma member, his hold on the office may be tenuous. Shakhrai's Party of Russian Unity and Concord campaigned against Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's Our Home Is Russia after splitting with the bloc on 30 August. Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov has also identified Shakhrai as one of the ministers he most wants to replace, making him a likely sacrifice. -- Robert Orttung LEAVING THE COUNTRY IS NOT TREASON. The Constitutional Court ruled that leaving for a foreign country or refusing to return from abroad cannot be considered a form of treason, Ekho Moskvy reported on 20 December. It therefore declared Article 64 of the Russian Criminal Code unconstitutional. The court was considering a case brought by Valerii Smirnov, who claimed political asylum in Norway while on an official visit in 1981. He returned to the Soviet Union four months later, only to be sentenced to 10 years in prison for treason. The court found that Smirnov did not break the law by refusing to return but left open the question of whether he committed treason by revealing confidential information from his work at a state instrument-making institute. -- Laura Belin ZHIRINOVSKY AGAIN FAILS TO APPEAR IN COURT. Nearly two years have passed since Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev described Vladimir Zhirinovsky's views as "fascist" on NTV in January 1994, but the ensuing slander case remains unresolved. The case was postponed for the third time on 20 December, after Zhirinovsky and the presiding judge both failed to appear for court hearings, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. Kozyrev told journalists that he came to court "to defend my right to call fascists what they are" and referred to Zhirinovsky as a "Fuehrer." -- Laura Belin YELTSIN MEETS AKAYEV. President Boris Yeltsin met with his Kyrgyz counterpart, Askar Akayev, at the Barvikha sanitarium outside Moscow on 20 December, Russian agencies reported. The two presidents released a statement endorsing the "further deepening of Russian-Kyrgyz cooperation . . . within the framework of the CIS." Akayev said he will make an official state visit to Moscow soon to sign more than 20 bilateral economic agreements, including one formalizing Kyrgyzstan's entry into the Belarus-Russia-Kazakhstan customs union. He also announced that the mandate of the CIS forces on the Afghan-Tajik border would be extended to the end of 1996. Akayev downplayed the results of the Duma elections, saying they would not hinder democratic reform in Russia. -- Scott Parrish COUNCIL OF EUROPE COMMITTEE APPROVES RUSSIAN MEMBERSHIP. A parliamentary committee of the 38-member Council of Europe decided on 20 December to submit Russia's application to a vote of the full parliamentary assembly at its next session, Western and Russian agencies reported. Russia applied for membership in 1992, but its application was frozen after the December 1994 military intervention in Chechnya. The application was reactivated this September once peace negotiations had begun in Chechnya, but a final decision was postponed pending the outcome of the 17 December Duma elections. Council observers recently back from Russia endorsed the elections as "fair and correct," allowing the application to proceed. The council agreed that even if Russia does not yet meet all of the body's standards, "integration is better than isolation." Ironically, even as the committee was voting, renewed fighting was underway in the Chechen town of Gudermes. -- Scott Parrish RUSSIAN PILOTS TO BE RELEASED SOON? A Russian delegation that hoped to secure the quick release of the seven Russian air crew members held hostage by the Afghan Taliban movement since 3 August returned to the United Arab Emirates from Kandahar on 20 December without the pilots, Russian agencies reported. Delegation head Yurii Kotov told ITAR-TASS that Taliban has promised to release the crew by 30 December. Taliban had earlier said it would release the crew only after clarifying the fate of some 6,000 Afghans it claims were deported to the Soviet Union during the Afghan War. Kotov said he had given the Taliban documentary evidence that no Afghan citizens are being forcibly detained in Russia. Although not entirely satisfied with that response, Taliban agreed to release the pilots after studying the Russian documents for another 10 days. -- Scott Parrish RUSSIAN PEACEKEEPERS READY FOR BOSNIA. The Russian airborne brigade which will form part of the multinational Bosnian peace implementation force is preparing to depart from its base in Kostroma, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 December. The brigade, with an overall strength of 1,500 men, consists of two battalions, drawn from the 76th and 98th Airborne Guards Divisions. Russian military spokesmen praised both the multiethnic composition and combat-readiness of the brigade, in which 23 different nationalities are represented, although 78% of the troops are Russian. The brigade's officers have extensive combat experience, 30% having served in Afghanistan, and 60% in Chechnya. The brigade' commander, Col. Aleksandr Lenstov, served two years and Afghanistan and was recently decorated for bravery in Chechnya. According to a statement by NATO Supreme Commander General George Joulwan on 19 December, the Russian brigade will be deployed in the Posavina land corridor together with troops from the U.S. First Armored Division. -- Scott Parrish RUSSIA REFUTES REPORTS ABOUT POLISH PRIME MINISTER. Russian officials on 20 December reacted angrily to reports in the Polish media accusing Polish Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy of serving as an agent for Soviet and later Russian intelligence agencies, Russian agencies reported (see related item in Central and Eastern Europe section). Alexander Mikhailov, a spokesman for the Federal Security Service, called such reports "deliberate rubbish," and Tatyana Samolis, press secretary to Foreign Intelligence Service head Yevgenii Primakov, also denounced the accusations as groundless. In a subsequent statement released to ITAR- TASS, the Russian Foreign Ministry indirectly criticized outgoing Polish President Lech Walesa, who has called for an investigation of the allegations. The agency expressed "concern" with the release of such "false reports," which it said only served to create tensions in Russo- Polish relations. -- Scott Parrish INDIA TO BUY RUSSIAN FIGHTERS, SUBMARINES. A high-ranking representative in the Indian defense establishment told journalists in New Delhi on 19 December that India and Russia are about to sign an agreement on the sale to India of two squadrons of Russian multipurpose Su-30MK jets. ITAR-TASS reported that some of those aircraft would be used for photographic and electronic reconnaissance. The two sides are reportedly "very close" to a contract for the sale of six more Kilo-class submarines to India, and are still negotiating the sale of the aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov. -- Doug Clarke AGENCY SET UP TO INVESTIGATE MOSCOW CONTRACT KILLINGS . . . A special service of procurators and detectives will be set up to investigate contract killings in the capital, Moskovskii komsomolets reported on 20 December citing sources within the city Procurator's Office. Only two of the 45 contract killings in Moscow this year have been solved. Half the victims were businessmen, and the other half belonged to criminal groups. Interior Minster Anatolii Kulikov called on 1 December for the creation of a special bureau to investigate the large number of contract killings in Russia. -- Penny Morvant . . . DEPUTY KILLED IN KOMI. A Komi State Council deputy, Yevgenii Leontev, was gunned down outside Vorkuta airport on 20 December, ITAR- TASS reported. Leontev, who died as he was being taken to hospital, was the director of a coal-exporting company. The agency said that a number of businessmen involved in coal exports have been killed; thus, it seems likely that Leontev's death was also linked to his business activities. -- Penny Morvant COST OF MOSCOW METRO RIDE INCREASES. The cost of a Moscow metro ticket went up 50% on 21 December to 1,500 rubles (32 cents), ITAR-TASS reported. But according to the Moscow Mayor's Office, even the new price covers only a quarter of the real cost of a trip. The last increase was on 20 September, when the cost of a token went up from 800 rubles to 1,000. Metro workers have repeatedly complained about safety, claiming that none of the trains on the network are in good working order. The metro has carried 9 million passengers a day since its inauguration under Stalin in 1935. -- Penny Morvant ECONOMICS MINISTRY ISSUES 1996 INVESTMENT FORECAST. The Economics Ministry expects investment to grow by 4% in 1996, and reach 310 trillion rubles ($67 billion), Segodnya reported on 20 December. Of this, two thirds will be raised from companies' internal resources, and some 50 trillion rubles ($11 billion) will be invested by commercial banks. However, the head of the Association of Russian Banks, Sergei Yegorov, doubted whether firms and banks would be able to generate such a level of investment. He noted, for example, that the banks only managed to raise 4.5 trillion rubles ($1 billion) to participate in the recent round of share auctions. -- Natalia Gurushina and Peter Rutland FOREIGN TRADE CONTINUES TO PROSPER. During the first 11 months of the year, Russian foreign trade turnover was $113 billion, 21% up over the same period last year, Delovoi mir reported on 20 December. Exports rose 21% and the trade surplus widened to $31 billion, belying reports that the ruble corridor had made exports unprofitable. Exports to non-CIS countries rose 28%, to $59 billion, while exports to the CIS fell 3.5%, to $12.4 billion. -- Peter Rutland TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION RESULTS CONTESTED IN KAZAKHSTAN. Appeals from unsuccessful candidates in the 9 December elections to the lower house (Majilis) of the Kazakhstani parliament have reduced the number of occupied seats in the house from the originally announced 43 to 32, according to Western agencies. This could complicate plans for opening 67-seat Majilis which needs at least 45 deputies to hold a quorum. The Central Electoral Commission has not yet commented on the results. A run-off election involving the two leading candidates from each electoral district will be held on 23 December to fill the empty seats. An appeal by a defeated candidate in the March 1994 parliamentary elections, Tatyana Kvyatkovskaya, started a review process that led to the previous parliament being dissolved in March 1995. However, that scenario is unlikely to repeat itself. -- Bruce Pannier KAZAKHSTAN GETS RUSSIAN WARPLANES. The Kazakhstani air force received eight MiG-29s from Russia on 19 December, ITAR-TASS reported. Sources in the Russian Defense Ministry told the agency that Russia also plans to export Su-25 close air support planes and Su-27 fighters to Kazakhstan. The sources said the exports are part of the concept of collective CIS border protection. -- Doug Clarke [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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