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No. 251, Part I, 29 December 1995
Note to readers: The OMRI Daily Digest will not appear on 1 January 1996. ************************************************************************ 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 IMF's forecast of improvement in the Romanian economy next year and the huge energy debt CIS countries have with Russia. For subscription and rate information, please send a message to email@example.com ************************************************************************ 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 RETURNS TO KREMLIN. Russian President Boris Yeltsin returned to his office in the Kremlin on the morning of 29 December after a two- month absence due to heart trouble. In an interview with ITAR-TASS, Yeltsin said the two most important international events of the year were the 50th anniversary of the UN and the Dayton peace accord. The most important domestic events were the holding of the Duma election and, for himself, the birth of his fourth grandchild. -- Peter Rutland ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIA GOVERNMENT PURGE IN OFFING? On 28 December, President Boris Yeltsin gave Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin two days to fire those responsible for "sabotaging" the government's economic program, NTV reported the same day. Presidential spokesman Sergei Medvedev said the president was angry with the Economics Ministry because it had failed to provide the investments he had promised during a visit to the Krasnoyarsk combine plant last year. The Finance Ministry is also being criticized for failing to release routine budget funds. The acting head of the Defense Ministry's finance department, General Vasilii Kuznetsov, said that his ministry did not receive any money in December, according to Interfax of 28 December. ITAR-TASS on 25 December quoted Yurii Malyshev, the head of Rosugol, as saying that the 500 billion rubles ($108 million) the government promised for coal miner's wages had also not been paid. -- Peter Rutland OUR HOME IS RUSSIA SUPPORTS YELTSIN FOR RE-ELECTION. Although Chernomyrdin is frequently mentioned as a presidential contender, representatives of his bloc, Our Home Is Russia (NDR), continue to express loyalty to President Yeltsin. Sergei Belyaev, leader of the NDR Duma faction, said his party will select a presidential candidate at a conference in January or February, and will support Yeltsin if he runs for re-election, Russian media reported on 28 December. He also said the NDR will have as many as 80-100 deputies in the new Duma, providing the only real competition for the Communists in parliament. The KPRF will have at least 158 Duma seats. NDR won 44 on the party list and 10 single-member districts, but Belyaev said many independents were joining the faction as well. -- Laura Belin LEBED TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT. Retired general Aleksandr Lebed, a leader of the Congress of Russian Communities (KRO), announced on 28 December that he intends to run for president in 1996, Russian and Western media reported. Lebed reportedly hopes that his candidacy will be supported by the Communist Party of the Russian Federation. During the campaign he suggested several times that KRO and the Communists form an alliance, but the idea was rebuked by Yurii Skokov, another KRO leader. KRO had a disappointing showing in parliamentary elections and failed to make the 5% cut-off. However, most Russian commentators are already saying that if Lebed were to win Communist backing he would be the clear favorite in June's presidential race. -- Laura Belin COMPETITION LIKELY FOR COMMUNIST PRESIDENTIAL NOMINATION. Lebed's announcement adds another wrinkle to the KPRF's plans to choose a presidential candidate in January. The party has not yet formally responded to Lebed's offer of an alliance during the presidential campaign. KPRF leader Gennadii Zyuganov, who is considered to lack the charisma needed to win a presidential election, has insisted that the Communists will unite behind a single candidate. Aman Tuleev, the outspoken governor of Kemerovo who was third on the KPRF party list for the Duma elections, told Radio Rossii on 26 December that he will run for president if Yeltsin runs for re-election. (Tuleev finished fourth in the 1991 presidential elections with 6.8% of the vote.) Furthermore, Petr Romanov, a prominent Krasnoyarsk factory director elected to the Duma on the KPRF list, continues to prepare for a presidential bid. -- Laura Belin GORBACHEV ALSO LEANING TOWARD PRESIDENTIAL BID. Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev said he is leaning toward running for president in 1996 as part of a "broad coalition of democratic forces," Izvestiya reported on 28 December. He added, "I cannot remain on the sidelines during a time of difficult ordeals for Russia." -- Laura Belin EX-DEPUTIES TO BE GIVEN GOVERNMENT JOBS. According to a statement issued by Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin, all the deputies who failed to be re- elected in December will be given positions in top government agencies and Moscow residency permits, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 December. Only 93 of the Duma's 450 deputies won re-election on 17 December. Officials of the Moscow Mayor's Office complain that almost all the deputies who lost their seats in the recent election are refusing to leave the apartments they received from the city, NTV reported on 26 December. The city has supplied 250 deputies with apartments since 1993. The deputies should in theory leave their apartments by the end of January. In the meantime, new deputies will be accommodated in the Hotel Rossiya. -- Peter Rutland PRESIDENTIAL COUNCIL RECOMMENDS 20 DECREES ON LOCAL SELF-GOVERNMENT . . . The Presidential Council on Local Self-Government ruled that the federal government should issue about 20 decrees to make the law on self-government workable, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 December. Sergei Filatov, head of the presidential administration, said bills are urgently needed in the areas of self-government structure, local financing, and taxation. Filatov added that he fears that local governments could become "sovietized" following the Communist Party's recent electoral victory. -- Anna Paretskaya . . . WHILE REGIONAL LAWS TO BE EXAMINED. Filatov also said the Presidential State Legal Administration (GPU) has prepared Constitutional Court cases against various bills passed in 70 of the country's 89 federation subjects that allegedly contradict the Russian constitution, Segodnya reported on 27 December. Filatov said President Yeltsin would soon establish a commission to harmonize local legislation with the constitution. GPU experts say they have also found several examples of federal laws that contradict the constitution as well as other federal legislation. On 29 December, President Yeltsin vetoed a Duma bill on relations between krais and oblasts composed of autonomous okrugs, saying it contradicted the constitution. -- Anna Paretskaya INGUSH PARLIAMENT CALLS FOR ABOLITION OF INTERIM COMMITTEE. On 28 December, the Ingush parliament appealed to President Boris Yeltsin and the Russian government to abolish the interim committee created to deal with the situation in North Ossetiya's disputed Prigorodny Raion following violent clashes between Ossetiyans and Ingush in the autumn of 1992, ITAR-TASS reported. The parliament argues that the committee has not been able to stabilize the situation in Prigorodnyi Raion and proposed that special rule be imposed on the districts that have been set aside for the repatriation of Ingush refugees. The presidents of North Ossetiya and Ingushetiya, Akhsarbek Galazov and Ruslan Aushev, met with Yeltsin's aide for nationality issues, Nikolai Yegorov, in Moscow on 16-17 December and subsequently ratified an agreement on normalizing relations between their respective republics. -- Liz Fuller FOREIGN TRADE MINISTER IN TEHRAN. Russian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Trade Oleg Davydov initialed two intergovernmental economic protocols with his Iranian counterpart during a three-day visit to Tehran, Russian and Western agencies reported on 28 December. One of the protocols covers mutual debt repayment. The other which outlines bilateral economic cooperation for the next 10 years, calls for the creation of joint oil and gas companies, a move certain to draw criticism from the U.S. which has imposed a unilateral trade embargo on Iran. At a press conference Davydov termed Iran a "strategic partner" for Russia. The two ministers indirectly threatened Azerbaijan by jointly declaring that under a pending agreement on a new legal regime for the Caspian Sea, no single country will be permitted to exploit the sea's mineral resources. -- Scott Parrish YELTSIN SUSPENDS SANCTIONS AGAINST RUMP YUGOSLAVIA. On 28 December, President Yeltsin issued a directive ordering the suspension of UN economic sanctions against rump Yugoslavia, Russian and Western agencies reported. The directive was issued in accordance with UN Security Resolution 1,022, passed on 22 November, which suspends the sanctions as part of the Dayton agreement. The directive does not suspend Russian participation in sanctions against the Serb-held areas of Bosnia, however, which remain in place until Bosnian Serb military forces withdraw behind demarcation lines laid out in the Dayton accord. Meanwhile, in New York, Russian UN Delegate Sergei Lavrov called on the Security Council to adopt a resolution condemning the "gross and mass violations of human rights" by Croatian authorities in Krajina, citing a recent report on the issue by the UN secretary general. -- Scott Parrish RUSSIA TO RESTRICT TEXTILE IMPORTS. Dmitrii Sukhoparov, the head of the department for regulating foreign trade at the Foreign Economic Relations Ministry, announced that Russia will soon introduce quotas limiting textile imports from the EU, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 December. Sukhoparov complained that the EU limits Russian textile exports to $180 million a year while it sells $740 million worth of its own textiles to Russia. The Russian Justice Ministry recently prepared a document authorizing the imposition of such anti-dumping measures, which Sukhoparov claimed are fully in accord with GATT and WTO rules. Import quotas are also being considered for other items, such as cash registers. -- Peter Rutland GOVERNMENT SELLS 16% STAKE IN LUKOIL. The Russian investment company Nikoil has won a share auction for a 16% stake in LUKoil, Russia's largest oil company, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 December. Nikoil's offer to invest 800 billion rubles ($170 million) in LUKoil in return for the shares beat out the sole rival bidder. Earlier this month, the State Privatization Committee transferred a 5% federal stake in LUKoil to the company itself and Imperial Bank in exchange for a $35 million loan. Nikoil is thought to be a front company for LUKoil, having been created in order to trade in the shares of LUKoil and other petroleum companies. If so, it will be another entry on the list of auctions with predetermined outcomes. Earlier this week, one of the few privatization auctions to be won by an outsider, STET's bid for a stake in Svyazinvest, fell through. -- Natalia Gurushina TWO MORE OIL COMPANIES HOLD AUCTIONS. On 28 December, Neftyannaya Finansovaya Kompaniya and Stolichnyi Bank bought 51% of the shares in Sibneft with a Menatep Bank guarantee, ITAR-TASS reported. The bid was $100.3 million, $300,000 above the start price. On the same day, the auction of 15% of the shares in Nafta-Moskva, the former Soyuznefteeksport, was held for the second time. It was won with a bid of $20.01 million by Nafta Moskva and Unibestbank, with a guarantee from Onekismbank (which also organized the auction). The bid was just $10,000 above the reserve price. The first sale of Nafta shares, on 17 November, was reversed after the winner proved unable to come up with the money. -- Peter Rutland TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA NEW CHAIRMAN OF UZBEK CONSTITUTIONAL COURT ELECTED BY PARLIAMENT. The Uzbek Oliy Majlis elected Bahodir Ishanov to head the country's Constitutional Court, according to an Uzbek Radio report cited by the BBC on 28 December. Ishanov, who was President Islam Karimov's nominee, is currently a the chairman of the Oliy Majlis Committee on Legislation and Court Issues. Under Uzbek law, Ishanov must step down from his position in the Oliy Majlis to assume his new post. A deputy chairman and two standing members were also elected to the Constitutional Court. -- Roger Kangas 107 DEAD AS CYCLONE WRECKS NORTH KAZAKHSTAN. At least 107 people are dead and many more are missing following a devastating cyclone and bitter cold weather in the Akmola, Kokshetau, Kostanai, and Karaganda oblasts in north-central Kazakhstan, Karavan-Blitz reported on 28 December. -- Bhavna Dave in Almaty OBSERVERS SATISFIED WITH KYRGYZ ELECTIONS. Representatives of the UN Development Program and the OSCE in Kyrgyzstan released a statement on 28 December describing the country's recent presidential election as "generally free and open" despite some violations of voting procedure, Reuters reported. The statement noted that there had been some reported cases of the titular head of a household voting on behalf of an entire family. Pre-election registration rules for candidates and the exclusion of three candidates from the election for allegedly violating those rules "raised some legal and constitutional concerns," but the observers "for the most part found the presidential elections to be a step forward" from the country's February parliamentary elections. The final results show that with 86% of eligible voters participating, Akayev won 71.6% of the vote. -- 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. 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