|He who knows nothing is nearer the truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors. - Thomas Jefferson|
No. 3, Part I, 4 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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ ELECTED DEPUTIES MUST ANNOUNCE INTENTIONS BY 5 JANUARY. Central Electoral Commission (TsIK) Chairman Nikolai Ryabov announced that newly elected deputies to the State Duma must confirm by 5 January that they have given up any other jobs "incompatible with their new status," Interfax reported on 3 January. In December, the TsIK reminded all deputies that if they serve in the next parliament, they cannot simultaneously "be employed by the government or hold paid jobs in any fields except teaching, scientific research, and creative expression in general." Lawmakers in the previous Duma were allowed to hold jobs outside the legislature, and several cabinet ministers were also deputies. Perm Oblast Governor Boris Kuznetsov has submitted his resignation to President Yeltsin in order to take up his Duma seat, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 January. The Sixth Duma is scheduled to hold its first session on 16 January. It is still unclear whether Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev will hold on to his government post or give it up to take the Duma seat that he won in a Murmansk constituency in the 17 December election, Russian agencies reported on 3 January. -- Laura Belin, Anna Paretskaya, and Scott Parrish ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIA MIKHALKOV GIVES UP DUMA SEAT. Oscar-winning film director Nikita Mikhalkov, who was second on the Our Home Is Russia party list, will give up his Duma seat in order to concentrate on his next film project, an epic about Russian army officers, Russian and Western media reported on 3 January. He told ITAR-TASS that he joined the prime minister's bloc to help prevent a victory for "the radical opposition," not because he planned to become a deputy himself. Mikhalkov added that only political stability can create the conditions for solving Russia's other problems, including poverty, crime, and the destruction of "national culture." Unlike government officials, Mikhalkov was not forced to choose between his creative work and serving in parliament. -- Laura Belin OUR HOME IS RUSSIA FACTION TO DIFFER FROM PARTY LIST. Our Home Is Russia (NDR) will have at least 55 deputies in the next Duma, but the composition of the faction may be very different from the slate of candidates that 10% of Russians voted for on 17 December. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin has already announced that he will continue to lead the cabinet rather than serve in the Duma. Early reports after the election indicated that General Lev Rokhlin, NDR's #3 candidate, would also give up his Duma seat to stay in the armed forces, but according to NTV on 3 January, Rokhlin has still not made a final decision. The future of Nikolai Travkin, currently minister without portfolio in the government and the administrative head of the Shakhov region of the Moscow Oblast, is unclear. Two city government officials in Moscow, Vladimir Resin and Vladimir Sister, have requested that their Duma seats be passed to candidates lower on the NDR list so that they can remain in their current jobs, Interfax reported. NTV noted that some of the 10 Our Home Is Russia deputies elected in single-member districts also are heads of local governments or large enterprises and have not yet announced their intentions. -- Laura Belin NEW FEDERAL OFFENSIVE IN CHECHNYA? Despite a recent lull in the fighting in Chechnya, which has slackened since federal forces retook Gudermes from separatist fighters, the appointment of Lt. Gen. Vyacheslav Tikhomirov as the new commander of federal forces in the republic has triggered speculation that a renewed government offensive may be in the offing. Some commentators have noted that Tikhomirov is a regular army officer, while his predecessor, Lt. Gen. Anatolii Shkirko, was from the Interior Troops. Military sources told Interfax on 3 January that Tikhomirov is a "decisive" commander, predicting that "federal troops will begin to actively disarm illegal armed formations." Meanwhile, NTV reported that the 8th Guards Corps, which participated in the storming of Grozny last year, may be redeployed to Chechnya, although a spokesman for the unit, currently on tactical exercises near its Volgograd base, refused to confirm the reports. -- Scott Parrish NEMTSOV PROPOSES NEW ECONOMIC POLICY. Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast Governor Boris Nemtsov, who was re-elected on 17 December, has proposed a new economic policy for the oblast, Radio Rossii reported on 3 January. According to Nemtsov, the policy's main aim is to establish the best possible conditions for producers and entrepreneurs and set aside "fruitless political debates." The policy includes proposals for lower taxes and the creation of offshore and free economic zones. -- Anna Paretskaya RYURIKOV ON FOREIGN POLICY COUNCIL. The new Presidential Council on Foreign Policy, created by a Yeltsin decree on 26 December (see OMRI Daily Digest, 27 December 1995), is not directed at any particular ministry or minister, presidential foreign policy aide Dmitrii Ryurikov told Interfax on 3 January. He said the new council would help the Foreign Ministry by fostering "the coordination of Russian foreign policy and unification of all its spheres." Ryurikov stressed that the primary task of the new council would be to monitor the implementation of foreign policy decisions made by the president, a job which would be handled by the new council's secretariat, he added. Indirectly admitting that Russian foreign policy-making is uncoordinated, Ryurikov described the formation of the council as "the only way to make every department carry out state policy." -- Scott Parrish RUSSO-UKRAINIAN DISPUTE OVER OIL PIPELINE. Anonymous Russian officials blamed Ukraine for the suspension of oil shipments to Eastern Europe via the "Druzhba" pipeline, which crosses Ukrainian territory, Interfax reported on 3 January. The pipeline shut down on 1 January because of a dispute between Russia and Ukraine over transit fees. The officials accused Ukraine of violating an intergovernmental agreement by trying to unilaterally impose a 10% increase on transit fees. Oleksandr Sverdelov, a Ukrainian spokesman, attributed the shutoff to Russian insistence that oil be shipped at the old tariff until new transit fees are negotiated. Sverdlov said Ukraine wanted to raise the transit fee for shipping one metric ton of oil to $5.20, from the current $4.53, although he said a "realistic" price would be $7.20. -- Scott Parrish MORE THAN 45 BILLION RUBLES SPENT ON CENTERS FOR REFUGEES AND FORCED MIGRANTS. The Federal Migration Service spent more than 45 billion rubles in 1995 on centers to temporarily house refugees and forced migrants, ITAR-TASS reported on 3 January. There are 160 such centers in Russia, 68 of which were set up in the North Caucasus to cope with the influx of refugees from the Ossetiyan-Ingush conflict and Chechnya. Refugees are supposed to stay in the centers for no more than three months, but according to the Migration Service that is not enough time to resettle them due to a lack of funds. In 1995, only 106 apartments were found for refugees from the centers, which currently house about 25,000 people. Better-off immigrants receive interest-free loans to help them relocate; most move to rural areas. -- Penny Morvant INVESTIGATION OF MEN CASE CONCLUDED. The Moscow Oblast Procurator's Office has closed the investigation into the murder of reformist priest Aleksandr Men, who was slain with an axe in 1990, Russian TV reported on 3 January. Igor Bushnev, who has been charged with the murder, will be tried by a court in the town of Sergiev-Posad. Men's relatives believe that the case against Bushnev has been fabricated and that the true killer is still at large, Ekho Moskvy reported. -- Penny Morvant NEW ST. PETERSBURG METROPOLITAN APPOINTED. Following a meeting of the Russian Orthodox Church Synod, Metropolitan Vladimir of Rostov and Novocherkassk has been appointed to replace St. Petersburg Metropolitan Ioann, who died on 2 November (see OMRI Daily Digest, 3 November 1995). The 66-year-old Metropolitan Vladimir is a graduate of the Moscow Seminary and Leningrad Theological Academy, Moskovskii komsomolets reported on 30 December. He was ordained in 1953 and received a bishopric in 1993. Among the other candidates considered for the post were Metropolitan Filaret of Minsk, Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, and Metropolitan Iuvenalii of Krutitsii and Kolomna. -- Penny Morvant 1996 BUDGET SIGNED INTO LAW. President Yeltsin signed the 1996 budget into law on 31 December, Russian TV reported on 3 January. The budget envisions a deficit of 88.6 trillion rubles ($19 billion), or about 3.8% of GDP. This is above the 1995 deficit, which was 3.5% or GDP, but below 1994's 10% figure. The budget plans to bring inflation down to 1.9% a month, compared to 7% per month in 1995, which should clear the way for the $9 billion credit currently being negotiated with the IMF. Finance Minister Vladimir Panskov admitted on Russian TV on 3 January that many budget organizations have not been able to pay wages since October, and that these funds will have to come out of the new budget. He noted that this has happened at the end of every year since 1991. -- Peter Rutland LEGAL CHALLENGE TO CURRENCY CONTROLS. Despite the government's success in macroeconomic stabilization, the rules of the economic game in Russia are still unclear. The Moscow Arbitration Court recently overturned a $3.5 million fine which the Federal Foreign Currency and Export Control Service had imposed on Pervyi Professionalnyi Bank for violations of currency regulations, Finansovye izvestiya reported on 28 December. The court ruled that the agency lacked the legal basis for levying the fine because it was operating under governmental decree rather than a Duma- approved law. Further evidence of the lack of clear rules of the game in economic policy came from the deputy chair of the Central Bank S. Aleksashenko, who was quoted in Kommersant on 28 December as saying that "the Finance Ministry and Central Bank often learn of each other's decisions from the newspapers, which can hardly be considered normal." -- Peter Rutland MAGNITOGORSK STEEL WORKS FACING GRIM FUTURE. The giant Magnitogorsk steel works faces a profound crisis, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported on 3 January. In the past, the Magnitka works relied on importing ore from deposits 450 km away in Kazakhstan. However, the new private managers of the Sarbaevsk mine prefer to sell their ore to buyers in China because they pay on time. The nearest Russian ore deposits are located 2,500 km away in Lebed, and transporting the ore that distance is not economically viable. -- Peter Rutland TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA REFERENDUM CALLED FOR AMENDMENTS TO CONSTITUTION IN KYRGYZSTAN. Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev announced on 3 January that a national referendum would be held on 10 February on changes to the constitution, according to Interfax. Akayev has already made his intention to hold such a referendum after his victory in the 24 December presidential election. The Kyrgyz president complained that there is "a vacuum of power and responsibility" and is seeking a constitutional basis for the separation of powers. The amendments have not been announced yet, but observers speculate Akayev will use them to gain more power over the formation of government and a greater say in foreign and domestic affairs. -- Bruce Pannier KAZAKHSTANI DEFENSE MINISTER ON MILITARY REFORM. In an interview with Voin Kazakhstana (#86), Kazakhstani Defense Minister Lt. Gen. Alibek Kasymov outlined the present plan to reorganize Kazakhstan's armed forces. After several years of chaos and insufficient organization, the country's military has been able to solve its problems, partially as a result of recent agreements within the CIS and the NATO Partnership for Peace program. In addition, the Defense Minister added, the establishment of a viable infrastructure that includes social services for the military personnel, has been a critical factor in this evolution. "The ultimate aim of the military reform is to create compact and mobile armed forces, capable of carrying out the tasks of defending Kazakhstan's national interest," Kasymov said. -- Roger Kangas TURKMENISTAN TO ENCOURAGE MORE FOREIGN INVESTMENT. The government of Turkmenistan hopes that 1996 will be a lucrative year for foreign investors in the country, Interfax reported on 3 January. The Khalq Maslakhty (People's Council) recently passed an investment program which estimates foreign investment at $335.1 million, including $308.3 million in credits. Most of the support will be directed toward agriculture ($149.4 million), as well as transport and communication ($80 million). Specific projects to be completed with the funds include the Bezmeinskaya hydroelectric power-station. -- 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. 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