|If you are not allowed to laugh in heaven, I don't want to go there. - Martin Luther|
No. 4, Part I, 5 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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ MIXED ECONOMIC PERFORMANCE IN 1995. Monthly inflation fell to 3.2% in December, down from 17.8% in January, Interfax reported on 4 January. Prices rose 131% during 1995 as a whole, compared with 215% in 1994 and 840% in 1993. Economy Minister Yevgenii Yasin said that industrial production fell by 3% in 1995, compared with 21% in 1994, while GDP fell 4%, after a 15% fall in 1994. Real income dropped by 8%, but Yasin claimed that income differentials had stabilized, with the richest 10% of Russians earning 13 times more than the poorest 10%. Yasin said bringing down the inflation rate was the government's main achievement. "Inflation is the big thief which climbs into the pockets of every family, especially those on low or average incomes," he said. -- Peter Rutland ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIA ATTEMPTS TO FORM PRO-REFORM AND CENTRIST DUMA FACTIONS. Sergei Yushenkov, a leading figure in Russia's Democratic Choice, has recruited 22 deputies elected from single-member districts to join a new "Inter- regional Deputies' Group," Ekho Moskvy reported on 4 January. (The new faction is named after the influential pro-reform group in the USSR Congress of People's Deputies elected in 1989.) Its members include independent candidates Andrei Kozyrev, Galina Starovoitova, Gennadii Burbulis, as well as figures from parties that did not clear the 5% threshold, such as Sergei Kovalev (Russia's Democratic Choice), Yekaterina Lakhova (Women of Russia), and Konstantin Borovoi (Party of Economic Freedom). Meanwhile, Artur Chilingarov, one of five deputy speakers in the last Duma, is organizing a centrist deputies' group, reportedly to include Ivan Rybkin, Sergei Shakhrai, Telman Gdlyan, and Col. Gen. Boris Gromov. A Duma faction must have at least 35 deputies in order to be officially registered. -- Laura Belin NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA'S TOP 100 POLITICIANS. According to a survey of 50 experts published monthly in Nezavisimaya gazeta, President Yeltsin and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin remained the two most influential Russian politicians in December. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov was ranked the third most important politician, up from fifth place in November (in a similar experts' poll in February 1995, Zyuganov was in 27th place). Grigorii Yavlinskii was ranked fourth, up from ninth place in November. Vladimir Zhirinovsky posted the sharpest rise, from 20th in November to sixth in December following his surprising second- place showing in the Duma election. Leaders of the Congress of Russian Communities, which failed to gain 5% of the vote in the election, lost influence in the view of the experts; Aleksandr Lebed dropped from tenth place in November to 17th in December, and Yurii Skokov fell from 13th place to 36th. -- Laura Belin COMMUNIST GROUP NOMINATES ROMANOV FOR PRESIDENT. The Central Electoral Commission registered an initiative group nominating Krasnoyarsk factory director Petr Romanov for president, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported on 4 January. Romanov was elected to the Federation Council in 1993 and ran for the Duma in 1995 on the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) list. He has proposed that two or three Communist candidates run for president in 1996, suggesting that he will not step aside if the KPRF nominates Gennadii Zyuganov or another figure for president. -- Laura Belin ROKHLIN GIVES UP DUMA SEAT. Lt. Gen. Lev Rokhlin, who was third on the Our Home Is Russia party list, announced on 4 January that he will give up his Duma seat to continue to serve in the army, NTV reported. The top two NDR candidates, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and film director Nikita Mikhalkov, have also declined their parliamentary mandates. -- Laura Belin DUMA TO HAVE TWO LEBEDS, FOUR ZHIRINOVSKYS. Russia may yet see the revival of political "dynasties," at least in parliament, according to a 4 January Radio Rossii political commentary. Army Colonel Aleksei Lebed, like his brother Aleksandr Lebed, was elected in a single-member district, and three relatives of Vladimir Zhirinovsky will join the Duma from the LDPR party list. However, Zhirinovsky's sister, Lyubov, lost her bid to unseat Andrei Kozyrev in a Murmansk constituency. -- Laura Belin YELTSIN DISSATISFIED WITH HIS REPRESENTATIVES IN THE REGIONS. On 4 January, President Boris Yeltsin ordered Sergei Filatov, head of the Presidential Administration, to improve the performance of the president's representatives in the regions, Russian and Western media reported. Presidential spokesman Sergei Medvedev said the president views the work of several of his envoys as unsatisfactory and told Filatov to prepare a list of those who should be dismissed for incompetence. Yeltsin also said it was a mistake to hold the gubernatorial elections in some of regions at the same time as the Duma election because governors tended to focus on getting themselves re- elected rather than preparing for the election to the national parliament. -- Anna Paretskaya GUBERNATORIAL ELECTIONS IN MOSCOW OBLAST SAID TO BE RIGGED. Valerii Galchenko, deputy speaker of the Moscow Oblast Duma, has appealed the result of the 30 December gubernatorial election in the oblast to the Supreme Court, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 4 January. Galchenko, who lost the election, is accusing the regional electoral commission of violating several laws, such as calling the runoff too soon after the initial vote on 17 December and forcing people to vote in the second round to get the 25% turnout required for valid elections. In the second round, Anatolii Tyazhlov, supported by Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's bloc, Our Home Is Russia, was re-elected governor with 70.7% of the vote (see OMRI Daily Digest, 2 January 1996). -- Anna Paretskaya IRKUTSK AUTHORITIES EXTEND THEIR TERMS OF OFFICE. On 4 January, Irkutsk Oblast Governor Yurii Nozhikov signed a decree that extends the regional legislative assembly's term in office, which was slated to end on March 1996, for two more years, ITAR-TASS reported the next day. Nozhikov said he extended the assembly's original two-year term because of "the need to finish the formation of regional and local legislative bases." The decree requires that the next election be held no later than March 1998. -- Anna Paretskaya MIKHAILOV ENDORSES CHECHEN PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS. On 4 January, as fighting continued, Nationalities Minister Vyacheslav Mikhailov endorsed a proposal by Chechen head of state Doku Zavgaev to hold legislative elections in Chechnya this March or April, Radio Rossii reported. Mikhailov said there should not be a "large gap" between the 17 December elections for Chechen head of state, which provoked strong objections from the OSCE, and parliamentary elections in the republic. On the same day, outgoing federal forces commander Lt. Gen. Anatolii Shkirko said his replacement by Lt. Gen. Vyacheslav Tikhomirov did not indicate a change of strategy by federal forces in Chechnya (see OMRI Daily Digest, 4 January 1995). Shkirko added that any further negotiations with Chechen military commander Aslan Maskhadov would be useless. Shkirko blames Maskhadov for both the recent fighting in Gudermes and the failure of the 30 July Russian-Chechen military accord. -- Scott Parrish FEDERATION COUNCIL APPROVES DISPATCH OF TROOPS TO BOSNIA. On 5 January, by a vote of 137-2, the Federation Council endorsed a proposal by President Yeltsin to send a brigade of Russian paratroops to Bosnia to participate in the NATO-led peace implementation force (IFOR), ITAR-TASS reported. Under the Russian constitution, the council must approve any use of Russian troops outside the country. Meanwhile, on 4 January, Russian military officials told ITAR-TASS the brigade, numbering 1,500 men, is ready to depart from its Kostroma base for Bosnia. The Russian troops are scheduled to be deployed early next month in the strategic Posavina corridor, together with elements of the U.S. First Armored Division. -- Scott Parrish RUSSIA TO OPEN OFFICE IN TAIWAN. Russia plans to open an informal representational office of the Russian-Taiwanese Trade and Cultural Commission in Taipei during 1996, Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Panov told ITAR-TASS on 4 January. Taiwan has had such an office in Moscow since 1993, and Panov said China has no objections to the opening of the Taipei office. Russian trade with Taiwan was almost $3 billion in 1995. Also on 4 January, a spokesman for the Nuclear Energy Ministry denied a report from Taipei that indicated Taiwan plans to send up to 5,000 barrels of low-level radioactive waste to Russia for storage, Reuters reported. Georgii Kaurov said that Russian law prohibits radioactive waste being brought into the country. In Taiwan, a director of the power company with the waste told the state radio that details of the transaction with Russia are "still under negotiation." -- Scott Parrish and Doug Clarke MAFIA VIE FOR FISHING PROFITS. Oleg Ten, the general director of one of the largest fishing companies in the Russian Far East, Primorybprom, narrowly escaped an assassination attempt on 4 January, ITAR-TASS reported the next day. His car was sprayed with automatic fire that killed his bodyguard and driver. Ten's predecessor as director of Primorybprom, Andrei Zakharenko, was killed three months ago. -- Peter Rutland GOVERNMENT REJECTS PLAN FOR "SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT." The Russian government sent back for reworking the Economy Ministry plan for long- term ecological conservation at its 4 January meeting, Rossiiskaya gazeta reported the next day. The plan was criticized for vagueness and a lack of relevance to Russia's current economic problems. The document was prepared in response to the UN conference on "sustainable development" which took place in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. In February 1994, President Yeltsin issued a decree pledging that Russia would also draw up plans to limit its economy's impact on the environment. -- Peter Rutland ECOLOGICAL PROBLEMS IN CASPIAN SEA. While the Aral Sea is disappearing, the level of the Caspian Sea is rising. In recent years, 300,000 hectares of coastal land in Dagestan have been inundated. On 4 January, the federal government agreed to allot $38 million for conservation work this year with another $34 million to be spent by local authorities, AFP reported. -- Peter Rutland NUCLEAR REACTOR PLANT IN RECEIVERSHIP. A court has ordered the replacement of the management of Atommash in Volgodonsk, the plant which was built in 1978 to mass-produce reactors for Russia's nuclear industry, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 January. Those fired include the general director, Vladimir Yegorov. The plant does not have any new orders, and has fallen into a "debt hole," owing money to suppliers and utility companies, and unpaid taxes. All the plant's social facilities have been transferred to the city council. -- Peter Rutland TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA UK FOREIGN MINISTER TOURS CAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA. After meeting with the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan during visits to those countries, British Foreign Minister Malcolm Rifkind was cautiously optimistic about prospects for a resolution of the negotiations to resolve the Karabakh conflict, Turan reported on 4 and 5 January. After signing several bilateral agreements in Baku, and a brief visit with Azerbaijani opposition leaders, Rifkind flew to Tashkent to begin a two- day visit to Uzbekistan. According to ITAR-TASS on 5 January, Rifkind will meet President Islam Karimov to discuss the Aral Sea environmental crisis. -- Roger Kangas PENSIONS IN KYRGYZSTAN TO BE RAISED. Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev has issued a decree to increase pensions in the Central Asian republic starting on 1 February, according to a 2 January Kyrgyz Radio report cited by the BBC. Akayev promised both before and after the presidential election that he would raise pensions. The minimum pension after February will be 200 som (about $18) but those people presently receiving less than 300 som per month are entitled to a 15-35% increase in their pensions. -- Bruce Pannier KAZAKHSTANI DIPLOMATS SPEND BIG IN ISRAEL. Kazakhstani diplomats, who remained in Israel after accompanying Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev there to lay the ground work for opening an embassy, went on a large shopping spree on 3 January, Ekho Moskvy reported. Apparently, dozens of diplomats, including the ministers of health, energy, and justice along with Nazarbayev's son, descended upon Jerusalem's commercial center and engaged in a three-hour buying frenzy, spending a total of $250,000. The citizens of Kazakhstan "emptied entire shelves in various stores," according to the report. One diplomat reportedly bought $1,000 of candy, saying it was "a present for the children." Other purchases included more than $30,000 in jewelry and more than $10,000 in clothing. The average monthly wage in Kazakhstan is equivalent to about $20-30. -- 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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