|There is always one moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in. - Graham Greene|
No. 248, Part I, 22 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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RYBKIN CLAIMS COURT MAY EXAMINE VALIDITY OF ELECTIONS. Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin said 21 December that the Constitutional Court may examine the validity of the election returns since the four parties that won more than 5% of the vote collectively received less than 50% of all the votes cast. Common Cause's Irina Khakamada also voiced support for such an appeal, while the Congress of Russian Communities' Sergei Glazev and Derzhava's Aleksandr Rutskoi claimed that the results do not reflect the number of votes they had actually received, Russian TV reported. The Central Electoral Commission has yet to report the final results of the party-list vote, fostering speculation about possible falsifications, according to the 21-27 December issue of Obshchaya gazeta. -- Robert Orttung ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIA GOVERNMENT NEWSPAPER SAYS MAJORITY VOTED FOR REFORMS. In an extraordinary interpretation of the election results, a commentary in the official government newspaper Rossiiskaya gazeta argued on 22 December that the majority of Russians voted "for reforms." Aleksei Kiva argued that people are "beginning to believe in democratic institutions" instead of rushing "to the barricades." He also said voters did not choose a return to the past, in that even Communist Party (KPRF) leader Gennadii Zyuganov recognizes the need for private property and civil rights. The author said many people split their vote, declining to vote for pro-reform blocs in the party-list ballot but supporting individual reformers like Sergei Kovalev and Sergei Yushenkov. (In fact, the KPRF won 58 of the 225 single-member districts, while Russia's Democratic Choice won only nine and Our Home Is Russia won 10). Rossiiskaya gazeta resumed publication on 22 December, three days after editor Anatolii Yurkov announced that financial difficulties were forcing the paper to suspend publication. -- Laura Belin SHUMEIKO MOVEMENT HOLDS FOUNDING CONGRESS. Federation Council Speaker Vladimir Shumeiko's Reform-New Course movement held its founding congress on 21 December and discussed nominating Boris Yeltsin as its presidential candidate in 1996, NTV reported. Shumeiko said that "changing the course of reform does not mean changing the government," Russian TV reported. The president's relations to the movement are unclear. Although Yeltsin had earlier said the movement was "no good," he sent greetings to the congress and expressed the hope that it would be a "significant political force." Federation Council Deputy Yelena Mizulina suggested that some members of the movement support Grigorii Yavlinskii for president. -- Robert Orttung YELTSIN VETOES LAW BANNING ORT. As expected, President Boris Yeltsin vetoed the law on reorganization, privatization, and liquidation of state radio and television companies passed by the Duma on 24 November and approved by the Federation Council on 9 December, ITAR-TASS reported on 21 December. The president vetoed a similar measure in June. In particular, the law would have suspended the creation of Russian Public TV (ORT), created as part of a November 1994 presidential decree ordering the restructuring of Ostankino. ORT has broadcast on Channel 1 since 1 April, and Ostankino was liquidated under a 6 October presidential decree. -- Laura Belin HEAVY FIGHTING IN GUDERMES. Fighting continued in the city of Gudermes, 40 km east of the Chechen capital Grozny, NTV reported on 21 December. One hundred federal troops remain trapped in the city's railway station. Nearly half the city's 50,000 inhabitants are reported to have fled. Having besieged government positions for a week, Dudaev's forces were reportedly trying to break out of the ring of federal units which now surrounds the city. The fighting is thought to have claimed at least 100 lives. Chechen fighters also continue to occupy the towns of Urus Martan and Achkhoi Martan. -- Scott Parrish and Peter Rutland SHIPYARD WORKERS END BLOCKADE OF SUBMARINE. Shipyard workers at the naval yard in Polyarnyi, on the Kola Peninsula, have ended their three- day blockade of a nuclear-powered submarine, ITAR-TASS reported on 21 December. Complaining that they had not been paid since August, the workers had prevented the repaired submarine from leaving the yard. Russian TV reported on 21 December that the Northern Fleet threatened to initiate criminal proceedings against them and to switch off heat supplies to the 30,000 inhabitants of the city (the temperature being minus 30 degrees C). The workers gave in when they were promised that September's wages will be paid within four days. -- Doug Clarke and Peter Rutland FOREIGN MINISTRY: NO SHIFT AFTER ELECTIONS. Foreign Ministry spokesman Grigorii Karasin said at a 21 December Moscow press conference that the victory of communist and nationalist parties in the 17 December Duma elections would not trigger any significant changes in Russian foreign policy, ITAR-TASS reported. Karasin said that as before the election, President Yeltsin would direct foreign policy, not the Duma. He added that Russia's "foreign partners" should expect continuity, although he admitted that the new Duma would exert influence on some aspects of Russian policy and promised Yeltsin would take into account the opinions of the new Duma majority. On the same day, U.S. President Bill Clinton said the results of the elections "would not in any way affect our relations with Russia." -- Scott Parrish PRIMAKOV OUTLINES GOALS OF RUSSIAN FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE. Speaking before a 21 December Moscow meeting marking the 75th anniversary of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), its director, Yevgenii Primakov, declared that NATO expansion would create a "security threat" for Russia, Western and Russian agencies reported. Primakov said that trying to understand the "true motives" of those who advocate NATO enlargement is a key task of the SVR, and added his agency would seek to block the alliance's expansion while trying to establish good relations with former Cold War adversaries. Primakov admitted that Russia no longer had an obvious "main opponent" but said Russian policy should seek to prevent the emergence of a global hegemony, a thinly veiled reference to the U.S. Primakov also noted the importance of combating the threat to Russian national security and territorial integrity posed by ethno- national conflicts and terrorism. -- Scott Parrish RUSSIAN-ESTONIAN BORDER TALKS ADJOURN. Russo-Estonian border negotiations ended in St. Petersburg on 21 December without producing agreement on the disputed boundary between the two countries, Russian and Western agencies reported. Russian delegation head Vasilii Svirin told ITAR-TASS that some progress had been made on border demarcation, the rights of citizens of both countries living near the border, and other issues, adding that talks would resume in Tallinn on 25 January. However, the Russian diplomat criticized Estonia, saying the dispute could only be resolved if neither country had any territorial claims on the other. Estonia claims the border should be based on the 1920 Tartu treaty, which would result in the transfer to Estonia of about 2,000 sq. km. of territory that has been under Russian jurisdiction since WW II. -- Scott Parrish CORRUPT OFFICIALS RELEASE CRIMINAL KINGPINS. Since the beginning of 1995, 25 crime bosses (vory v zakone) have been held in pre-trail detention centers in Moscow, eight of whom have been released on bail, Segodnya and Komsomolskaya pravda reported on 21 December. Vladislav Selivanov, the deputy head of the Interior Ministry's Organized Crime Department in Moscow, said the immunity of criminal leaders is due to the "extremely high degree of corruption of the authorities." Police say about half the earnings of criminal groups is used to bribe state officials, judges, and journalists. -- Penny Morvant ECONOMIC ISSUES FACING DUMA. Commentators agree that the Duma will have very little scope to alter the government's economic policy over the next six months and will probably focus on maneuvering for the presidential elections. Speaking on Radio Rossii on 21 December, Aleksandr Privalov suggested that the Duma will challenge the government on four issues: social support for the poorer sections of society; privatization and deprivatization; the role of foreign capital; and the reintroduction of price regulation and state purchases. -- Peter Rutland GOVERNMENT REJECTS DRAFT REGIONAL POLICY. A 21 December meeting of the government chaired by First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets rejected the draft regional policy document prepared by the Nationalities Ministry, Rossiiskaya gazeta reported on 22 December. Participants in the meeting, which included regional administration heads, complained that the document does not contain a unified governmental policy, only policies for individual sectoral ministries. There was no agreement on how to restore central authority, but there was a consensus of sorts on the need "to support certain regions that can function as the engine pulling the national economy out of recession," Russian Public TV (ORT) reported on 21 December. Speaking on NTV on 21 December, academic Sergei Mitrokhin argued that "at present the government simply does not have a regional policy." -- Peter Rutland ITALIAN COMPANIES TO MANAGE REGIONAL INVESTMENT FUND. Two Italian companies, SOFIPA and IRITEX, have won a tender to manage a $50 million investment fund for small business development in Vologda, Novgorod, Pskov, and Tver oblasts, Delovoi ekspress reported on 21 December. The fund is one of 11 regional investment funds set up in Russia by the G-7 states. Seven of the funds are financed by individual countries and four by the EU. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA KARIMOV SACKS PRIME MINISTER. The Uzbek Oily Majilis dismissed Prime Minister Abdulkhosim Mutalov on 21 December, a decision prompted by President Islam Karimov. Previously, Karimov noted that "a fresh approach to the economy" is needed, especially with respect to stabilization measures and increasing foreign trade. Recently, Uzbekistan has experienced monetary problems, with the black market rate for the sum at 50 to $1 compared with the official rate of 36 to $1. Mutalov's replacement, the 46-year-old Utkir Sultanov, is an experienced politician and knowledgeable about economic matters, having held the post of foreign economic relations minister. With the dismissal of Mulatov, Karimov has almost completely removed the core of supporters he had when he rose to power, which included such officials as former Vice President Shukhrulla Mirsaidov, former Justice Minister and Ambassador the U.S. Babur Malikov, and former Foreign Minister Said-Mukhtar Saidkasimov. -- Roger Kangas REGIONAL SHAKE-UP IN UZBEKISTAN. Uzbek President Islam Karimov replaced the hokims of two wilayatlar, or regions, in Uzbekistan late last month, RFE/RL reported. The local governments in Samarkand and Kashkadarya have been the subject of much criticism in recent weeks, for delays of up to six months in the payment of wages. The new hokim for Samarkand is former Justice Minister Alisher Mardiyev, a close ally of Karimov, and Azat Fermanov will take over on Kashkadarya. Karimov himself is from Samarkand and had political experience in Kashkadarya--regions which were thought to be strongly supportive of his administration. Sirajuddin Mirsafayev will take over from Mardiyev at the Justice Ministry. -- Roger Kangas KAZAKHSTAN ELECTION ROUNDUP. President Nursultan Nazarbayev issued a decree that grants him the right to remove any minister or replace the entire government "on his own initiative," ITAR-TASS reported on 20 December. The decree also bars ministers from being deputies in any representative body. Meanwhile, the Central Electoral Commission reported that of the 32 Majilis deputies elected, 26 are Kazakhs, four Russians, one Ukrainian, and one Korean. No candidates have been elected from Akmola, North Kazakhstan, and Torgai oblasts. Only one out of three Majilis seats have been filled in Kokshetau and Semipalatinsk oblasts, both by independent candidates; and two out of the four candidates elected in East Kazakhstan oblast are non-government candidates, denoting a unhappiness with the government's policies in the Russian- dominated eastern and northern regions of the country. Run-off elections for 24 Majilis seats and re-elections to another seat are to be held on 23 December. -- Bhavna Dave in Almaty and Bruce Pannier ONE LAST APPEAL BEFORE KYRGYZ ELECTION. The three candidates who were disqualified from running in the 24 December Kyrgyz presidential election called off their hunger strike on 21 December, while still calling for the elections to be recognized as unconstitutional, RFE/RL reported. The three candidacies were rejected after the Central Electoral Commission ruled that some of the 50,000 signatures they had collected were forged. -- Bruce Pannier GEORGIAN HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST REQUESTS ASYLUM IN GERMANY. Giorgi Kervalishvili, president of the Georgian Association for the Protection of Human Rights, met the German deputy ambassador to Georgia and handed him a letter addressed to Chancellor Helmut Kohl and requesting political asylum in Germany, Iprinda news agency reported on 20 December. In his conversation with the deputy ambassador, Kervalishvili said that basic human rights are still being violated in Georgia and that he himself is under "constant moral and psychological pressure from the authorities." -- 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. 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