|There is no love sincerer than the love of food. - George Bernard Shaw|
No. 2, Part I, 3 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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ ELECTORAL COMMISSION SETS DEADLINE FOR REGISTERING PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES. Candidates running in the presidential election scheduled for 16 June 1996 will have until 15 April to register with the Central Electoral Commission, Interfax reported on 3 January. By that time, the commission announced, nominees will have to submit their tax returns for the two years before the election in addition to a list of signatures supporting their nomination. Under the law on presidential elections, candidates must collect at least 1,000,000 signatures, with no more than 70,000 signatures from any one region of the Russian Federation. So far, the commission has registered five groups nominating presidential candidates, including President Boris Yeltsin and former Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoi, but several other prominent politicians have announced their intentions to join the race. -- Laura Belin ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIA NEW YEAR MARKS FINANCIAL HELP FOR MEDIA . . . On 1 January, three laws went into effect that will ease the financial pressures on the mass media in 1996, government press secretary Sergei Medvedev told ITAR-TASS the same day. Medvedev said the law "On State Support for the Mass Media and Book Publishing," the law "On Economic Support for Local Newspapers," and an addition to the law on customs tariffs would ease the media's tax burden. For instance, beginning in 1996, newspapers, publishing houses, and printing enterprises will be able to import paper, audio, video, and other technical equipment duty-free. Medvedev said the president signed these laws in order to help form a "free and responsible press"; he did not mention that the president rejected initial versions of two of the laws earlier this year. -- Laura Belin . . . AND RISING SUBSCRIPTION RATES. Subscriptions to Russian newspapers and magazines rose significantly for the first half of 1996, ITAR-TASS reported on 27 December, citing the Federal Service for Postal Communications. Subscriptions to all Russian newspapers and magazines combined totaled approximately 37 million, up 6% from last year. Subscriptions to newspapers published in Moscow rose by 12.5% compared to last year, and subscriptions to Moscow-published magazines rose by 13.2%. Nevertheless, the trend of city and regional newspapers replacing the central press continued. Subscriptions to local newspapers rose 2% and now comprise 19,3 million out of the total 28.3 million subscriptions to Russian newspapers. Magazines published in Moscow remained more dominant. Although subscriptions to regional publications rose 20% compared to last year, regional publications still only make up 600,000 out of the 8.3 million magazine subscriptions in Russia. -- Laura Belin WIFE SAYS ZHIRINOVSKY IS SUBDUED AT HOME. In a rare public statement, Galina Lebedeva, a biologist who has been married to Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky for 25 years, told a press conference in Helsinki that despite his gift for provoking controversy, her husband is very quiet and considerate at home, Western agencies reported on 2 January. She said the media often misrepresented Zhirinovsky and took his comments out of context but admitted he is a "very emotional person." She added, "Russia needs harsh leadership and extreme views" given its current political environment. Lebedeva rarely accompanies Zhirinovsky at public appearances. -- Laura Belin TATARSTAN PRESIDENT'S RATING DOUBLES SINCE HIS ELECTIONS. Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev's popularity rating has more than doubled from 20.7% in 1991, when he was elected president, to 49.7% in a poll taken by the Center of Social Studies of Tatarstan in late 1995, Interfax reported on 31 January. There was little ethnic difference in his support as 51.2% of the republic's ethnic Tatars and 48.2% of its ethnic Russian residents expressed confidence in him. On 27 December, Kazan Industrial Association Teplokontrol nominated Shaimiev as a candidate in the republic's 24 March presidential election. The only other declared candidate for the presidency so far is Anatolii Vasilev, a former employee of the republican Interior Ministry and vice president of the International Fund for Mothers and Children. According to Russian TV, Vasilev will probably not manage to collect the 50,000 signatures that are required to be officially registered as a candidate since he was not even able to win a seat in the republic's spring 1995 parliamentary elections. Russian law requires at least two candidates to run in any election for it to be considered valid. -- Anna Paretskaya NEW FEDERAL COMMANDER IN CHECHNYA. General Vyacheslav Tikhomirov has apparently replaced General Anatolii Shkirko as commander of the federal forces in Chechnya, NTV reported on 1 January. Shkirko--who was reportedly given a "new high-ranking post"--had only been commander since 12 October 1995 when he replaced the wounded General Anatolii Romanov. -- Doug Clarke UNHCR TO STEP UP CHECHNYA RELIEF EFFORT. As a result of recent heavy fighting in Chechnya, the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) plans to intensify its relief efforts there, Western and Russian agencies reported on 2 January. Ron Redmond, a UNHCR spokesman, said that about 14,000 Chechen refugees had arrived in neighboring Dagestan over the last two weeks, bringing the total number there to an estimated 40,000. Approximately 45,000 additional refugees are now in Ingushetiya and North Ossetiya. Redmond said the UNHCR had planned to end its mission on 31 December, but it decided to extend operations until 1 March after renewed fighting broke out. Many refugees are now believed to have fled Chechnya for a second time, after returning home this summer during the ceasefire talks. -- Scott Parrish FORMER KGB AGENT REFUTES OLEKSY ALLEGATIONS. At a 2 January Moscow news conference, retired KGB Colonel Vladimir Alganov denied recent charges that Polish Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy had worked as a Russian agent, Russian and Western agencies reported. Alganov, who served in Warsaw from 1981 to 1992, told journalists that he had developed a friendship with Oleksy during his stay in Poland but denied that their relationship ever went beyond "the limits of friendly ties." He also claimed that Polish intelligence operative Marian Zacharski had followed him to Majorca in 1994 in an attempt to obtain compromising information on Oleksy. Alganov said Zacharski must have taped their conversations, and asserted that the tapes would prove that the charges against Oleksy are nothing but a "dirty fabrication." Russian spokesmen have made concerted efforts to discredit the allegations against Oleksy. -- Scott Parrish RUSSIAN POLICE OFFICERS TO BOSNIA. A Russian official told ITAR-TASS on 2 January that Russia will be "respectably represented" in the UN- administered international civilian police force currently being set up in Bosnia. The 1,500-strong police force is to help ensure civil order during the transition period provided for by the Dayton agreement. The official said that "at least 100" Russian police officers would participate in the international force, which is to be deployed in Sarajevo, Tuzla, Banja Luka, and other towns in both the Muslim-Croat and Serbian controlled areas of Bosnia. -- Scott Parrish MIKHAILOV ON NUCLEAR SAFETY, EXPORTS. Russian Minister of Nuclear Energy Viktor Mikhailov told journalists on 2 January that nuclear smuggling should be the top item on the agenda for the April G-7 summit in Moscow (which will include Russia), Russian agencies reported. Mikhailov said the summit, devoted to nuclear safety issues, should draft "common procedures" for dealing with nuclear smuggling and tightening control over nuclear materials. He also announced that his ministry made $1.65 billion from exports in 1995, a significant contribution to Russia's $63 billion in total exports, and not much less than the $2.5 billion Russia earned by exporting arms. However, many of the countries that want to purchase Russian civilian nuclear technology, such as Iran and Cuba, have a questionable ability to pay for it, casting doubt on Mikhailov's prediction that nuclear exports can be boosted to $2 billion by 1998. -- Scott Parrish SEMENOV SEES THREATS FROM ISLAM, NATO. Col.-Gen. Vladimir Semenov, the commander-in-chief of the Ground Forces, told Interfax on 2 January that the greatest potential threat to Russia comes from the possible spread of Islamic fundamentalism from the south and southeast. He called for the strengthening of ties with Russia's "great southern neighbor" China. Semenov predicted that East European and Baltic countries would eventually join NATO which would bring "military structures of the North Atlantic alliance to Russian borders." "We must be prepared for that," he warned. He added that the Russian military leadership is particularly wary of the possibility that CIS countries will receive membership in NATO. -- Doug Clarke IRAN WANTS RUSSIAN AIRLINERS . . . Iran intends to buy 12 Tupolev-154 airliners and will manufacture Ilyushin-114 aircraft under licence, according to the daily Iran News of 2 January. The paper quoted the Iranian ambassador to Russia Mehdi Safari as saying the negotiations on the Il-114 were "at the final stage and production will start within a year." He also said the Tu-154 deal will be signed soon. The two projects are worth $700 million, and will increase Iran's indebtedness to Russia to $1.2 billion. Iran will repay the debt in annual installments of $250 million. -- Doug Clarke and Natalia Gurushina . . . WHILE TU-154 MANUFACTURER EXPERIENCES SERIOUS DIFFICULTIES. Signing the Russo-Iranian airplane contract will improve prospects for the aviation plant in Samara that manufactures the Tupolev-154 passenger plane and has seen its output fall dramatically since the collapse of the Soviet Union. In 1995, the Samara plant produced only 11 TU-154 planes, compared to about 70 a year in Soviet times, Russian TV reported on 2 January. Most of Russia's aviation companies, which were formed on the basis of regional subdivisions of Aeroflot, are too small to be able to buy planes outright and the Russian financial system has not yet developed the kinds of leasing facilities that are common in the West. -- Natalia Gurushina MOSCOW PLANS TO GET HOMELESS OFF THE STREETS. In an attempt to rid Moscow's streets of vagrants, the local authorities will open night shelters in 10 city districts in 1996, Interfax reported on 2 January. Currently the city has only one such shelter, with room for 24 people. The homeless people will be taken to an Interior Ministry center for identification before being housed in the shelters for up to 30 days while their future and work prospects are being discussed. A city social security official said in November that vagrants without the right to live in Moscow would be expelled (see OMRI Daily Digest, 22 November 1995). The authorities also want changes in the law to introduce penalties for vagrancy and begging. Police estimate that there are 250,000-300,000 homeless people and vagrants in the capital, half of whom come from other parts of Russia or from abroad. -- Penny Morvant TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA KAZAKHSTANI COMPANY INVESTS IN KARAGAILY ORE PLANT. Kazakhstan's Postovalov & Co. has now invested more than $4 million in the Karagaily ore mining and dressing plant which has started to show signs of increasing its output, Interfax reported on 1 January. Postovalov & Co. acquired the management contract in May 1995 and since then has been able to start an open pit mining operation and an ore dressing mill. The plant, located in the Karaganda region of northern Kazakhstan, mines lead and zinc ore and produces zinc and oil concentrates. The plant, which employs 1,100 people, has recently hired more staff and has managed to sell its products at a higher price than before. Postovalov and Co. is expected to increase production, settle the plant's debts, and pay wages on time; in return it is guaranteed a 10% cut from the proceeds of product sales every three months. -- Bruce Pannier CUSTOMS CONTROLS LIFTED ON RUSSO-KAZAKHSTANI BORDER. President Yeltsin has signed a decree lifting customs controls on the Russian-Kazakhstani border, ITAR-TASS reported on 3 January. Controls will however be kept in place for goods in transit to third countries. This step is a follow- up to the agreement on the formation of a customs union signed by Russia, Kazakhstan, and Belarus on 20 January 1995. Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan have expressed interest in joining the union. The practicalities of implementing the union, let alone adding new members, remain unclear. -- Peter Rutland WAGE INCREASES IN TURKMENISTAN. As of 1 January 1996, various forms of government support have substantially increased. Student stipends have increased two-fold, the minimum wage almost threefold, and pensions, support for families with children, and veteran payments threefold, Russian and Western agencies reported. According to ITAR-TASS on 2 January, the current monthly minimum wage will now be 20,000 manat (approximately $8) and veterans and pensioners will now receive 22,000 manat a month. In addition, government subsidies for basic commodities will remain in place. This means that, with ration cards, citizens can still purchase butter, flour, sugar, and meat at 1/50th the market rate. Gas and electricity for apartments are also still free of charge. -- 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 email@example.com 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. For Transition subscription information send an e-mail to TRANSITION@OMRI.CZ Copyright (C) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. ISSN 1211-1570
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