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No. 1, Part I, 2 January 1996
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 PLEDGES TO STAY THE COURSE. During public appearances in the last three days of 1995, President Boris Yeltsin insisted that he would press forward with economic and political reform in 1996, despite a strong showing by the Communists in the 17 December State Duma elections, Russian and Western agencies reported. On 29 December, Yeltsin asserted that market reform would not under any circumstances be reversed. Addressing a New Year's reception the following day, he said that Russians do not notice the main achievement of political reform which is "freedom," and called on Russians to be more optimistic. Any attempt to reverse reform, he concluded, would "lead the country into a dead end." -- Scott Parrish ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIA YELTSIN PLEDGES TO FIGHT POVERTY. In a New Year's address broadcast by Russian Public TV (ORT) on 31 December, President Yeltsin said that raising the living standards of the poor is the main task facing Russia in 1996. Living standards were down 12% over the first nine months of 1995 in comparison with the same period in 1994. He again stressed that the government must begin to pay wage and pension arrears--a major theme of his speeches prior to the Duma elections--and said those unable to sort out the matter should resign. He also promised to crack down on those in financial bodies who misused funds earmarked for social needs, calling it "pure theft," and said compensation would begin to be paid to people who lost their savings as a result of economic reform, particularly the elderly. Three days earlier, Yeltsin had called for improvements in the Economics and Finance ministries, saying "saboteurs" should be rooted out of those bodies. -- Penny Morvant FINAL DUMA ELECTION RESULTS RELEASED. On 29 December, the Central Electoral Commission released corrected final tallies for the Duma election, Russian and Western media reported. A total of 69.2 million of the 107.5 million eligible voters took part in the election. A total of 1.3 million ballots were declared invalid, although the 5% party-list threshold was determined using the total number of ballots cast, not only valid ballots. Four parties, with a combined 50.49% of all ballots cast, cleared the 5% threshold. There were some minor changes from the preliminary results issued four days earlier. The Communist Party of the Russian Federation won 22.30% of the party-list vote and 157 Duma seats in all. Our Home Is Russia won 10.13% of the vote and a total of 55 seats. The Liberal Democratic Party of Russia won 11.18% of the vote but only one single-member district, and will have 51 seats. Yabloko won 6.89% and a total of 45 seats. Twenty-four parties that did not clear the 5% hurdle nevertheless won one or more single-member districts. -- Laura Belin CONTROVERSY SHROUDS SECOND ROUND OF MOSCOW OBLAST GOVERNOR'S RACE. Amid controversy and a turnout of less than 28% (barely exceeding the 25% required for valid elections), Anatolii Tyazhlov was re-elected governor of Moscow Oblast with 70.7% of the vote in the second round of elections held on 30 December, Russian media reported the next day. His competitor, Valerii Galchenko, had tried to withdraw his candidacy on 29 December, claiming an "intolerable" number of laws concerning the election had been broken, Russian TV reported. However, the regional electoral commission denied Galchenko's request, arguing that the deadline for removing his name from the ballot had expired on 16 December. Under Russian law, a candidate cannot run unopposed, so removing Galchenko's name would have rendered the runoff invalid. Galchenko has appealed to Russia's Supreme Court to declare the elections invalid. -- Laura Belin ANPILOV RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT. Viktor Anpilov, leader of the hard-line Russian Communist Workers' Party, told a St. Petersburg rally marking the 73rd anniversary of the creation of the USSR that he will run for president in 1996, Interfax reported on 30 December. Anpilov was a leader of the bloc Communists-Workers' Russia-For the Soviet Union, which won only one seat in the Duma despite gaining a surprising 4.53% of the vote on party lists. Anpilov himself lost his bid for a single- member district Duma seat in Saratov. Anpilov's bloc espouses more orthodox communist views than Gennadii Zyuganov's much larger Communist Party of the Russian Federation. -- Laura Belin ZHIRINOVSKY DEMANDS SPEAKERSHIP, MINISTRIES. Speaking at a 29 December press conference, Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR) leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky said members of his faction should be appointed to three ministerial posts and the speakership of the Duma. Zhirinovsky proposed Vladimir Gusev, who was elected to the Duma on the LDPR party list, as a candidate for Duma speaker. Gusev, who served as deputy chairman of the USSR Council of Ministers from 1986 to 1991, "should not raise any objections from the Communists (KPRF)," Zhirinovsky added. He also said his party should receive the Education and Social Protection ministries, as well as the chairmanship of the State Property Committee. The LDPR hopes to gain the chairmanships of eight Duma committees including those on the budget, defense, Duma business, and privatization. -- Scott Parrish TALIBAN REFUSES TO RELEASE RUSSIAN PILOTS. The release of the seven Russian aircrew held hostage by the rebel Afghan movement Taliban since 3 August has been postponed indefinitely, Russian and Western agencies reported on 31 December. Earlier, Taliban agreed to free the crew on 30 December and Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev was expected to be present at their release (see OMRI Daily Digest, 28 December 1995). However, Taliban subsequently refused to release the crew, demanding information about one Afghan citizen whom they claim is detained in Russia. On 31 December, Taliban even refused to receive a Russian delegation for further talks, citing "security" reasons, but promised to continue negotiations in a few days. -- Constantine Dmitriev DISARMAMENT COMMITMENT NOT MET. Russia has destroyed less than a third of the 6,331 tanks and about half of the 1,988 armored vehicles east of the Urals that it had promised to eliminate in a unilateral commitment given in June 1991 in connection with the conclusion of the CFE treaty, ITAR-TASS reported on 30 December. Russian General Dmitrii Kharchenko said Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan also missed the year-end deadline to destroy former Soviet equipment on their territory, Reuters reported on 1 January. He said that the Russian problem is purely an economic one, adding that his country wants the deadline extended until the end of 1998. However, ITAR-TASS reported that the Russian Defense Ministry now believes it is not in Russia's interests to scrap the rest of the equipment and no longer regards the 1991 commitment as binding. -- Doug Clarke RECORDED CRIME INCREASES. During the first 11 months of 1995, 2.5 million crimes were reported in Russia, a 5.6% increase over the same period of 1994, Russian TV reported on 29 December. Among the most crime-ridden areas were Moscow and Moscow Oblast, St. Petersburg, and Krasnoyarsk Krai. Economic crime cost the government $4 billion. -- Penny Morvant BUDGET GETS $1.3 BILLION FROM PRIVATIZATION IN 1995 . . . In 1995, Russia's consolidated budget received about 6 trillion rubles ($1.3 billion) in revenue from privatization, 3.3 trillion rubles less than planned, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 December. Of this amount, some 4.7 trillion rubles ($1.01 billion) were generated by 12 government- organized loans-for-shares auctions. The program was hindered by a general lack of demand, as reflected in low share prices. In addition, eight defense companies were withdrawn from the list because of strategic considerations. In December, privatization suffered a serious setback with the collapse of the STET-Svyazinvest deal. -- Natalia Gurushina . . . PROSPECTS UNCERTAIN IN 1996. Speaking on Russian TV on 28 December, First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais warned that the government's opponents in the newly-elected Duma are planning "a battle to the death against privatization in 1996." However, he said that the millions of new owners will resist giving up their property, and that "to implement [laws reversing privatization] without spilling blood will be impossible." He argued that the Duma would face a bureaucratic nightmare if they tried to roll back the numerous laws, regulations, and institutions within which the newly-privatized firms are embedded. On the same day, President Yeltsin signed into force a new 100-page law on joint stock companies. -- Peter Rutland NEW RUBLE CORRIDOR IN EFFECT. The new ruble corridor went into effect on 1 January. Between now and the end of June the government will intervene to ensure that the ruble stays within the range of 4,550-5,150 rubles to $1. The ruble currently trades at around 4,650 to $1. The previous band, introduced on 5 June 1995, was 4,300-4,900 rubles to $1. First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets welcomed Russia's continuing boom in foreign trade, which he said rose 24% in 1995, ITAR-TASS reported on 1 January. However, he warned that import restrictions may be introduced on industrial machinery, particularly for the oil and gas industry, in order to protect Russian manufacturers. -- Peter Rutland RUSSIA TO IMPORT GRAIN. Deputy Economics Minister Ivan Starikov confirmed that Russia will have to buy grain abroad after 1995's disappointing 65 million ton harvest, the worst since 1963. Speaking on Radio Rossii on 1 January, he said most import orders will be placed by regional purchasing funds. AFP reported on 30 December that the federal fund itself has only 1 million of the 5 million tons of grain it needs. Russian grain imports fell from 35 million tons in 1991 to 11 million in 1993 and 3 million in 1994. -- Peter Rutland TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA AKAYEV TAKES OATH IN KYRGYZSTAN. Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev took the oath of office on 30 December after winning re-election the week before, international media reported. Akayev said that he would launch a "a real war" on crime during his new term in office, something he alluded to in the latter half of 1995. He also repeated that there would be personnel changes in the national and local governments to remove individuals who have hindered reforms. He also said taxation laws would be changed and pledged to continue market reforms in the country. Akayev claimed that the fact that he won more than 70% of the vote is a sign that the people support a policy of "democratization and reforms." -- Bruce Pannier 32 JOURNALISTS KILLED IN CIS IN 1995. Thirty-two journalists were killed in CIS states last year, a sharp increase from the 18 who were killed last year, Oleg Panfilov of the Glasnost Defense Foundation told Western agencies on 30 December. Fifteen of them were killed in Russia, 10 of them in Chechnya. A dozen more were killed in Tajikistan, the most recent of which was BBC correspondent Mehitdin Olimpur who was found shot several times near the state university in Dushanbe on 12 December (see OMRI Daily Digest, 13 December 1995). In many instances, the journalists were not simply killed in combat situations, but rather as a result of their investigative reporting, as exemplified by last week's murder of Vadim Alferev in Krasnoyarsk. Alferev, who had written on economic crimes, was found beaten to death outside his apartment (see OMRI Daily Digest, 28 December 1995). -- Roger Kangas GDP CONTINUES TO DECLINE FOR CIS STATES IN 1995. The CIS Statistics Committee's released its economic figures for the January-November 1995 period on 29 December, AFP reported. According to the committee's figures, Russia's GDP fell by 4%, while Armenia registered GDP growth of 5%. Azerbaijan and Ukraine had the worst performances with GDP falling in those countries by 17.4% and 12% respectively. The report also noted that industrial output for the CIS fell by 6.1%. Inflation continues to be a problem, with November levels ranging from 2.5% in Azerbaijan (lowest) to 56.9% (Tajikistan). Finally, the official figures on CIS unemployment remain very low, with only 2.9 million people registered as unemployed. The lowest rate is in Uzbekistan (0.3%) and the highest in Armenia (8.0%). According to a U.S. General Accounting Office report cited by Western agencies on 30 December, the U.S. has delivered $3.5 billion in aid to the former Soviet Union since 1991. The aid ranges from $97 per capita in Armenia to $11.60 in Russia and $7 in Azerbaijan. -- Roger Kangas [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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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. 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