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No. 19, Part I, 26 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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIAN TV PRODUCER MURDERED. Oleg Slabynko, the producer of the Russian TV interview program "Moment Istiny" (Moment of Truth), was murdered on the evening of 25 January, ITAR-TASS reported the next day. Slabynko was shot in his apartment by two unknown assailants, and police investigators said the killers telephoned in advance to make sure Slabynko was at home. Last month, journalist Andrei Karaulov, who hosts "Moment Istiny," complained that Russian TV had censored the show by refusing to air an episode dealing with corruption, Ekho Moskvy reported on 15 December. -- Laura Belin ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIA SHUMEIKO OFFERS CONDITIONAL SUPPORT FOR YELTSIN RE-ELECTION. Former Federation Council Chairman Vladimir Shumeiko announced that his Reforms-New Course movement will support President Boris Yeltsin's re- election, provided the president meets certain conditions, Russian media reported on 25 January. Shumeiko wants the State Duma to be given the right to confirm appointments of key ministers and deputy prime ministers. He also called for changes in tax policy and privatization, including abolishing the State Property Committee. Shumeiko has long been loyal to Yeltsin as a member of the president's Security Council, but he warned that if the president does not change his policies, Reforms-New Course will be forced to support a different candidate in June. Yeltsin is unlikely to accept these terms. -- Laura Belin PRIMORSK KRAI GOVERNOR SAYS HE SUPPORTS YELTSIN. Primorsk Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko, who was popularly re-elected last month, said he will support President Yeltsin if he decides to run for a second term, ITAR-TASS reported on 25 January. Nazdratenko said there is no other "consolidating figure" in Russian politics. The previous day, Nazdratenko met with Yeltsin, after which the president said he would issue a decree on government support for Primorsk Krai. -- Anna Paretskaya KHABAROVSK WORKERS FORCED TO SUPPORT YELTSIN. Several Khabarovsk newspapers have published letters from employees of various budget- financed organizations complaining that they were being forced to sign petitions which will go towards the 1 million signatures President Yeltsin needs to run for the June presidential elections, Segodnya reported on 25 January. The writers, who signed their letters with initials for fear of losing their jobs, said rail and army bosses have been particularly active. A high ranking official reportedly said the country's railway minister, Gennadii Fadeev, had ordered the collection and threatened to punish officials who were not vigorous enough in obtaining the signatures. -- Anna Paretskaya REPLACEMENT FOR CHUBAIS NAMED . . . Industrialist Vladimir Kadannikov has been appointed first deputy prime minister in charge of economic policy, Russian media reported on 25 January. Kadannikov, 54, worked his way up from the shopfloor to become director of AvtoVAZ in Togliatti, Russia's largest auto plant. Kadannikov was elected to the USSR Supreme Soviet in 1989, and headed the president's advisory council on industrial policy since 1990, but has never held a governmental office. He was a candidate to replace Yegor Gaidar as prime minister in December 1992. -- Peter Rutland . . . GOVERNMENT MAY PURSUE A MORE INTERVENTIONIST INDUSTRIAL POLICY. Speaking on Ekho Moskvy on 26 January, Gaidar said that Kadannikov had been a supporter of reforms in 1992, but Gaidar does not know his current views. Kadannikov joined Our Home Is Russia in May 1995. Auto producers have fared slightly better than other Russian manufacturers since 1992, in part because import tariffs have kept out foreign competitors. Kadannikov has lobbied hard for government support for the auto industry's ambitious investment program. -- Peter Rutland SEMINAR ON MEDIA'S ROLE IN ELECTIONS. The idea that Russian journalists should help shape reality rather than simply report information is alive and well, judging from comments made at a seminar on the role of the media in the Duma elections and the upcoming presidential elections hosted by the Central Electoral Commission (TsIK) and the Union of Journalists. TsIK Chairman Nikolai Ryabov said the media's primary task during campaigns should be "to help the public make the correct choice," ITAR-TASS reported on 25 January. Anatolii Vengerov, chairman of the President's Judicial Chamber on Information Disputes, also called for "strengthening the influence of the press on public opinion." Other topics discussed at the seminar included the poor quality of political advertising and the fact that so far neither federal nor regional budgets have reimbursed newspapers or radio and television stations that provided free space and air time to politicians. -- Laura Belin MAKASHOV WINS LAWSUIT. Duma Deputy Col. Gen. (ret.) Albert Makashov, a hard-line opponent of reforms, won his lawsuit against Samara Oblast's presidential representative, Yurii Borodulin, Russian TV reported on 25 January. Makashov sued Borodulin after the latter publicly called him the "fascist-like general." According to the court's sentence, Borodulin must apologize publicly and 10 million rubles (about $2,100) in damages, which Makashov said he would pass on to a kindergarten. -- Anna Paretskaya COUNCIL OF EUROPE APPROVES RUSSIAN MEMBERSHIP. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe approved Russia's membership application 164-35, with 15 abstentions on 25 January, Russian and Western agencies reported. After formal endorsement by the council's Committee of Ministers, Russia will become the council's 39th member at a February ceremony. Recent events in Chechnya had clouded Russia's prospects of gaining admission. As a condition of membership, Russia must ratify the European Human Rights Convention and adhere to council agreements on minority rights. Before the vote, Vladimir Zhirinovsky contended that Russian membership would reinvigorate the council, which he described as "a slime pond for defunct politicians entitled to free meals." Russian human rights activist Sergei Kovalev expressed ambivalence about the decision, saying "I fear the council does not realize the responsibility it carries." -- Scott Parrish RUSSIAN REACTION TO OLEKSY RESIGNATION. Vladimir Karpov, a spokesman for the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), described the accusations of spying against former Polish Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy as "an outright political provocation," Russian agencies reported on 25 January. Karpov again denied that Oleksy had ever been a Soviet or Russian agent and reiterated that Oleksy and former KGB Colonel Vladimir Alganov, who is alleged to have recruited him, had only a "personal" relationship. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Grigorii Karasin responded calmly to Oleksy's resignation, calling it an "internal matter" and adding that Russia would continue to pursue the development of solid Russo-Polish relations. However, NTV reported speculation that Oleksy may actually have been a Russian agent whom the SVR deliberately "betrayed" in order to discredit Poland in the eyes of NATO. -- Scott Parrish RUSSIAN ARMS EXPORTS UP IN 1995. A spokesman for the state-run arms export company Rosvooruzhenie said that Russian arms sales in 1995 grew by 60% over the previous year. The Voice of Russia on 25 January quoted him as saying that Russian companies earned $2.7 billion from arms exports last year and secured 13.6% of the world's arms market. The industry now has contracts worth $6.5 billion. Negotiations are underway with the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, and a number of Latin American countries, according to the report. -- Doug Clarke NEW RUSSIAN PRESENCE IN AFGHANISTAN. Russian military technicians have returned to Afghanistan six years after the Soviet army withdrew from that country, The Daily Telegraph reported on 25 January. Quoting diplomatic and intelligence officials, paper reported that Russian and Indian technicians are working to update Bagram airport. U.S. satellite pictures show that the Russians are building another airport, at Taloqan, to be used as a strategic base for military leader Ahmed Shah Masood should he be forced out of Kabul. The paper said that four Il-76 transports have been delivering arms, ammunition, and fuel from Tajikistan, Russia, and Ukraine to the Kabul government every day. -- Doug Clarke YELTSIN INCREASES PENSIONERS' COMPENSATION PAYMENTS . . . President Yeltsin issued a decree on 25 January raising compensation payments for recipients of old-age, survivor, invalid, and social pensions from 50,000 rubles to 75,000 rubles a month as of 1 February, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. The compensation payment is paid on top of the minimum pension, which currently stands at 63,250 rubles a month. The change means that there will be a slight reduction in the difference between the minimum and maximum pensions. The president's press service said the decision to raise the payment had been made a long time ago. -- Penny Morvant . . . AND STUDENT GRANTS. Yeltsin issued another decree on 25 January raising grants for students at higher and vocational educational establishments by 20%, ITAR-TASS reported. The raise will be implemented in April and remain in effect until a new law on the minimum wage is adopted. In a speech to students at the Bauman Moscow State Technical University the same day, Yeltsin said the average current student grant is 85,000 rubles a month, ORT reported. During his address, Yeltsin vehemently rejected reports that the recent personnel changes in the government signified a retreat from political and economic reform. -- Penny Morvant 1995 UNEMPLOYMENT FIGURES. On 1 January 1996, 2.3 million people, or 3.1% of the working population, were registered as unemployed with the Federal Employment Service, an increase of 690,000 in comparison with the previous year, Finansovye izvestiya reported on 26 January. The highest unemployment rate was registered in Ingushetiya (23%), followed by Ivanovo Oblast (more than 11%). The lowest unemployment rates are in Moscow, Smolensk Oblast, and Yakutiya (Sakha). -- Penny Morvant FOOD IMPORTS SOAR IN 1995. In 1995, Russian imports increased by 15%, while the proportion of food imports rose to 30% of the total (up from 22% in 1993), ITAR-TASS reported on 25 January, citing the Foreign Trade Ministry. Meat and poultry imports rose 63%, for example. The rise in food imports has been attributed to declining domestic production and to the introduction of the ruble corridor in July 1995. At the same time, there was a 25% drop in grain imports by the state. Grain purchases in countries outside the former Soviet Union plunged by 52% to 1.01 million tons. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA POLICE DISPERSE BAKU DEMONSTRATORS. Several people were injured when police used force to disperse an unsanctioned demonstration in Baku on 26 January, ITAR-TASS reported. Several hundred demonstrators from several political parties had gathered to protest the detention of former Foreign Minister Tofik Gasymov and former military commander Arif Pashaev. -- Liz Fuller UZBEKISTAN CUTS OFF GAS SUPPLIES TO KYRGYZSTAN. Uzbekistan has stopped delivering natural gas to Kyrgyzstan because of unpaid debts equaling about $11 million, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported on 25 January. Supplies of gas to the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, are already limited to enterprises, power stations, and boiler houses. The Kyrgyz government recently decided to compensate Russia for the debts it owes that country by handing over the rights to state enterprises, Vecherny Bishkek reported on 19 January. The Russian government has the right to select the plants it is interested in and then sell their shares to Russian buyers. The new ownership will then be registered as a joint venture. -- Bruce Pannier KYRGYZSTAN'S 1995 INFLATION RATE LOWEST IN CENTRAL ASIA. Kyrgyzstan's annual inflation rate of 31.9% for 1995 was the lowest in Central Asia, Russian media reported. According to the Kyrgyz National Committee for Statistics, food prices rose by 43.7%, consumer goods by 7.2%, and service rates by 28%. The figures for Kazakhstan are an inflation rate of 60.3%, with a 58.7% rise in food prices, 33.5% in consumer goods, and 158% in services. Uzbekistan had a 76.8% inflation rate in 1995, but no other details were given. Tajikistan and Turkmenistan have not released their figures yet. Government experts attribute Kyrgyzstan's lower rates to the stabilization of the national currency, the som, which is backed by a $74 million IMF loan. -- Bruce Pannier UZBEKISTAN'S COTTON AND GRAIN HARVEST RESULTS. The Uzbek cabinet announced on 23 January that the grain harvest fell about 600,000 metric tons short of the government's target of 3.3 million tons, Russian media reported. The cotton harvest was on target, at 4 million tons. -- 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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