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No. 5, Part I, 8 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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ KOZYREV CALLS IT QUITS. Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev submitted his resignation to President Boris Yeltsin on 5 January, Russian and Western agencies reported. Subsequently, presidential press secretary Sergei Medvedev announced that Yeltsin had accepted the resignation but emphasized that it would not precipitate any major changes in Russian foreign policy. Ostensibly, Kozyrev resigned to take the Duma seat he won in a Murmansk single-member constituency (see OMRI Daily Digest, 28 December 1995). However, Kozyrev had registered to run for the seat in October, shortly after Yeltsin publicly suggested that he might sack him; winning the seat gave Kozyrev a face-saving way to leave office, while allowing Yeltsin to jettison his unpopular foreign minister. No replacement for Kozyrev has yet been announced, but frequently mentioned candidates include Duma International Affairs Committee Chairman Vladimir Lukin, First Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, and presidential foreign policy aide Dmitrii Ryurikov. -- Scott Parrish ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIA REACTION TO KOZYREV'S RESIGNATION. Predictably, foreign observers expressed disappointment at Kozyrev's departure, while Russian politicians and commentators warmly greeted the resignation of the highly unpopular foreign minister, Russian and Western agencies reported. U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher and his German and Ukrainian counterparts, Klaus Kinkel and Henadii Udovenko, expressed regret at Kozyrev's departure. Kinkel emphasized that Kozyrev had understood the importance of close ties with the West. Duma International Affairs Committee Chairman Vladimir Lukin, a long-time critic of Kozyrev, described the resignation as "the right move," but politically long overdue, noting that he had been calling for Kozyrev's removal since 1992. Kozyrev's departure is unlikely to trigger a significant shift in Russian policy. Kozyrev himself had long ceased to be as pro-Western as his opponents claimed and had been marginalized in the Russian foreign policy process for several months. -- Scott Parrish YELTSIN LEANING TOWARDS RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT. Although President Boris Yeltsin has repeatedly said that he will not decide whether to run for a second term until February, his intensive schedule of public appearances since returning to the Kremlin on 29 December strongly suggest that he will seek re-election, according to an NTV political commentary on 7 January. At a 5 January Kremlin holiday ceremony, Yeltsin said he is thinking "more and more" about whether to run for a second term. NTV suggested that Yeltsin has already made up his mind to run again, but now simply needs to make the decision appear "natural." In order to keep himself in the political limelight, Yeltsin also issued a decree on 5 January setting 23 January as the date for the first meeting of the new Federation Council, adding that he will personally open the session. -- Scott Parrish YELTSIN ATTENDS CHRISTMAS SERVICE AT NEW CATHEDRAL. President Yeltsin, Patriarch Aleksii II of Moscow and All Russia, and Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov participated in a ceremony to mark Orthodox Christmas at the newly rebuilt Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Central Moscow on 7 January, Russian and Western agencies reported. Yeltsin helped Aleksii lay the final brick of the cathedral's outside walls, the construction of which began a year ago. Yeltsin hailed the rapid reconstruction of the church, which was first completed in 1883 but razed by Stalin in 1931, as proof of Russia's greatness, saying "This shows that Russia is alive, that the Russian spirit is alive." In what sounded like a campaign speech, Yeltsin declared: "The time of crisis has passed, stability and improvement are ahead." -- Penny Morvant CHERNOMYRDIN MEETS WITH ZYUGANOV, ZHIRINOVSKY. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin discussed a "wide range" of political and economic issues with Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov on 6 January, but Zyuganov said the question of Communist participation in the cabinet was not raised, Russian and Western media reported. Chernomyrdin's spokesman said the prime minister met with Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky on 5 January, but released no further details. -- Laura Belin YUSHENKOV: DEMOCRATS WILL NOT FORM DUMA FACTION. Sergei Yushenkov, leader of the nine Duma deputies from Russia's Democratic Choice, acknowledged on 5 January that his attempts to form a "centrist democratic" faction of pro-reform deputies had failed, NTV reported. Last week, Yushenkov said he had recruited 22 out of the 35 deputies required to form an officially registered faction, but he admitted defeat following the defection of four members, including Forward, Russia! leader Boris Fedorov. -- Laura Belin NINETEEN CANDIDATES TURN DOWN DUMA SEATS. According to the Central Electoral Commission, 19 candidates elected to the Duma from party lists chose to keep their old jobs rather than serve in parliament, Russian TV reported on 5 January. At least six candidates from Our Home Is Russia (NDR), including the top three, turned down their Duma seats, although Minister without portfolio Nikolai Travkin and Vladimir Zorin, deputy head of the federal administration in Chechnya, did quit their posts to join the NDR Duma faction. Six candidates out of 50 from the Liberal Democratic Party also declined to serve, but only two out of the 99 Communist Party candidates and one out of Yabloko's 31 party-list deputies turned down their seats, NTV reported on 7 January. -- Laura Belin PAPER CRITICIZES POLITICIANS WHO GAVE UP DUMA SEATS. "Many of those who call themselves politicians in our country have not yet grasped the seriousness of their work," according to a 6 January commentary in the military newspaper Krasnaya zvezda. The author of the article wrote that by appearing on party lists, the would-be deputies promised voters that they would apply their talents in parliament, but it turns out "they simply deceived their admirers." The article did not specifically mention Lt. Gen. Lev Rokhlin, who gave up his number three position for Our Home Is Russia in order to continue to serve in the army. -- Laura Belin GROUP SAYS PRESS FREEDOM "LARGELY FLOUTED" IN CHECHNYA. According to Oleg Panfilov of the Glasnost Defense Foundation, press freedom has been "largely flouted" in Chechnya since the war began in December 1994, AFP reported on 7 January. He said the foundation had documented 267 cases in which journalists were wounded, beaten, arrested, or had film or videotapes confiscated. -- Laura Belin RUTSKOI TO BRING CHARGES OVER CORRUPTION CASE. Former Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoi has asked Procurator-General Yurii Skuratov to institute criminal proceedings for forgery and abuse of office against former members of the anti-corruption commission that accused Rutskoi of misappropriating state funds in 1993, Interfax reported on 3 January, citing "well-informed" sources. The charges against Rutskoi were finally dropped in December due to "the absence of a crime" (see OMRI Daily Digest, 14 December 1995). But the agency quoted Rutskoi as saying that the case cannot be closed as long as "the people who forged documents" to discredit him as a politician remain unpunished. -- Penny Morvant SUPREME COURT SAYS ELECTIONS IN MOSCOW OBLAST VALID. The Supreme Court rejected Moscow Oblast Duma Deputy Chairman Valerii Galchenko's appeal to have the second round of the oblast's gubernatorial elections declared invalid (see OMRI Daily Digest, 5 January 1996), NTV reported on 6 January. Galchenko said he was going to challenge the court's decision. Governor Anatolii Tyazhlov, who was re-elected on the ticket of Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's Our Home Is Russia (NDR) bloc, said at his inauguration ceremony that he had won the election fairly, Russian TV reported. In his congratulatory telegram to the governor, President Yeltsin said the elections had once again confirmed the respect and authority that Tyazhlov enjoys among the people of the region. -- Anna Paretskaya FEDERATION COUNCIL VOTES FOR KALININGRAD ECONOMIC ZONE. The Federation Council endorsed a bill on creating a special economic zone in the Kaliningrad Oblast, Russian media reported on 5 January. The establishment of the free economic zone is aimed at encouraging capital investment, foreign trade, and business enterprise in the region. The zone covers all of the oblast, except army bases and compounds, defense plants, and oil and gas facilities, Interfax reported. -- Anna Paretskaya RUSSIAN DIPLOMAT EXPELLED FROM SWITZERLAND ON INTELLIGENCE CHARGES. Swiss authorities confirmed on 7 January earlier local media reports that a Russian diplomat had been expelled from Switzerland on 21 December for "illegal information gathering," ITAR-TASS reported. An official from the Swiss Department of Justice and Police said the diplomat, who he refused to name, was accused of conducting intelligence activities in Switzerland. -- Constantine Dmitriev ECONOMICS MINISTER TO BE DISMISSED? On 6 January, Ekho Moskvy reported that President Yeltsin was about to dismiss Economics Minister Yevgenii Yasin, but Yeltsin's chief of staff, Sergei Filatov, denied it the next day. The first reports of an impending purge of the ministry surfaced two weeks ago (see OMRI Daily Digest, 29 December 1995). The focus of Yeltsin's wrath was the ministry's failure to release a 150 billion ruble ($33 million) credit for the Krasnoyarsk harvester plant. Speaking on NTV on 7 January, Yasin defended his position, explaining that the government froze all industrial subsidies in August 1995. He added that "the rumors of my dismissal are exaggerated." It is unlikely that Yeltsin would dismiss Yasin as a concession to the Communist bloc in the new Duma. Contrary to many Western reports, Yasin is not a reformer from the Chubais camp. He is a centrist figure close to conservative industrialists. In related news, Yeltsin's chief adviser on economic issues, the 47-year-old Aleksandr Livshits, was hospitalized with heart trouble on 4 January. -- Peter Rutland COST OF LIVING DATA. The cost of the basic monthly consumer basket of 19 essential goods rose 130% during 1995 and stood at 235,000 rubles ($52) by the end of December, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 January, citing the State Statistics Committee. The basket ranged from 508,000 rubles in Yakutsk and 300,000 in Murmansk to 132,000 in Ulyanovsk. In Moscow it cost 277,000 rubles. Among the steepest price rises last year were utilities (400%) and urban mass transit (220%). -- Peter Rutland CORRUPTION IN BRYANSK. A control commission from the Finance Ministry found "serious violations" in the work of the Bryansk Oblast Privatization Committee, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 January. As a result, the head of the committee, Sergei Kozlov, was suspended by the oblast governor, who has asked the national State Privatization Committee to fire him. The investigation documents have been passed to the Procurator's Office. -- Peter Rutland TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA DIVISION AMONG TAJIK OPPOSITION. The Rastakhiz movement, outlawed in Tajikistan since the end of 1992, gave a statement to ITAR-TASS on 5 January saying the movement "fully recognizes" the constitution, president, and the measures underway "to strengthen the republic's independence and implement democratic reforms." The move comes as a blow to the United Tajik Opposition (UTO), which has already been criticized by another opposition party, the Democratic Party of Tajikistan (DPT). The DPT, also on 5 January, repeated its dissatisfaction with its role in the ongoing inter-Tajik talks. A DPT spokesman, Azam Afzali, criticized the Islamic Renaissance Party's dominant role at the peace talks, saying the negotiations will not yield "the desired results" without the DPT's participation, according to ITAR-TASS. The DPT suffered a split in its ranks in late May when its former leader, Shodman Yusuf, returned to Tajikistan and announced his support for the government. He was then voted out of the party by the membership in exile. -- Bruce Pannier KARIMOV RECEIVES BRITISH FOREIGN MINISTER. Malcolm Rifkind concluded a two-day visit to Uzbekistan on 6 January which was well-received in the Uzbek press, Russian and Western sources report. Rifkind met with his counterpart, Abdulaziz Kamilov, as well as President Islam Karimov. Of particular importance were agreements on business cooperation, water purification assistance for the Aral Sea region, and strategies to combat the increasing drug trade in Central Asia. In addition, Rifkind declared his support for the proposed UN-based peacekeeping force that would include units from Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan, and he called the British and Uzbek position on the Tajik and Afghan crises to be "practically identical." -- 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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