|I'm going to turn on the light, and we'll be two people in a room looking at each other and wondering why on earth we were afraid of the dark. - Gale Wilhelm|
No. 20, Part I, 29 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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ YAVLINSKII PROPOSES ALLIANCE WITH LEBED. In accepting Yabloko's nomination as its presidential candidate on 27 January, Grigorii Yavlinskii said that coalition negotiations were currently under way with Yegor Gaidar's Russia's Democratic Choice and the Congress of Russian Communities (KRO), Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. KRO leader Aleksandr Lebed, who is already running for president, told Ekho Moskvy on 27 January, "I am a friend of all professionals. Yavlinskii is a professional." Human rights activist Sergei Kovalev called Yavlinskii's proposal to work with the nationalist KRO "a very risky step" and predicted that a coalition would not materialize. Nezavisimaya gazeta warned on 26 January that if Yabloko and Our Home Is Russia do not form a coalition, the Communists could win the presidency. Meanwhile, on 27 January, former Federation Council Deputy Aleksei Manannikov set up a committee to nominate former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev for president. -- Robert Orttung ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIA POLL SHOWS ZYUGANOV LEADS PRESIDENTIAL RACE. The latest poll conducted by the All-Russian Center for Public Opinion Research (VTsIOM) shows Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov topping a list of possible presidential candidates, with 11.3%, NTV reported on 28 January. NTV did not reveal the poll's margin of error, but several candidates appear to be in a statistical dead heat for second place: Grigorii Yavlinskii was supported by 7.7% of respondents, Vladimir Zhirinovsky 7.1%, Aleksandr Lebed 5.5%, and Boris Yeltsin 5.4%. Public opinion can shift rapidly in Russia and most polls failed to predict accurately the results of the December parliamentary elections. -- Laura Belin EXTREME COMMUNISTS TO SUPPORT KPRF. The fifth congress of Viktor Anpilov's extreme communist Workers' Russia decided to support the candidate of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) in the presidential elections, NTV reported 28 January. Anpilov's bloc won more than 3 million votes in the December Duma elections, but fell just short of the 5% barrier. The decision to support Gennadii Zyuganov's more moderate party is a major change of course for the Anpilovites and demonstrates increasing unity among the leftist bloc while the pro- reform parties remain divided. -- Robert Orttung KOKOSHIN GETS NEW TITLE. . . First Deputy Minister of Defense Andrei Kokoshin--the only civilian in the ministry's top echelons--has been appointed to the post of state secretary as well, ITAR-TASS reported on 26 January. The ministry explained that the new position will give him "broader leeway" in doing business with the State Duma and the Federation Council. Defense officials said they hope Kokoshin's higher profile will give him more influence over the military budget process, the development of military technology, and international military cooperation. -- Doug Clarke . . . AND PRESENTS ARMS PROGRAM. Kokoshin presented the 1996 arms program to Yeltsin on 27 January, although the financing has yet to be worked out, ITAR-TASS reported. The program specifies what each defense plant should produce, but Yeltsin said the government must now figure out how to pay for the orders within the existing budget. The president had described the absence of such a program as "outrageous," but it is not clear whether the current draft is workable. -- Robert Orttung YELTSIN: NO MORE BIG CHANGES IN GOVERNMENT. President Yeltsin announced on 26 January that "major changes" in the cabinet are finished, Russian and Western agencies reported. During the last month, Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev, Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Shakhrai, Agriculture Minister Aleksandr Nazarchuk, State Property Committee Chairman Sergei Belyaev, and First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais have either left the government or been fired. According to the 27 January issue of Nezavisimaya gazeta, the recent appointment of Vladimir Kadannikov to replace Chubais marks a change from a policy of "liberal, speculative capitalism" to a "state-paternalistic" market model. -- Laura Belin YELTSIN PLEDGES TO PUSH FOR START II RATIFICATION. On 26 January, the U.S. Senate ratified the START II nuclear-weapons reduction treaty by an 84-7 vote, Russian and Western agencies reported. In a subsequent hour- long telephone conversation with U.S. President Bill Clinton, President Yeltsin pledged to push the Russian parliament to ratify the treaty before the April G-7 Moscow summit on nuclear security. Under the Russian constitution, treaties must be ratified by a majority of both houses in the Federal Assembly. Many analysts doubt that the Duma will ratify START II, which its critics view as requiring Russia to make lopsided cuts in its nuclear forces. The treaty would require both Russia and the U.S. to reduce their strategic arsenals to 3,500 warheads within seven years. -- Doug Clarke and Scott Parrish YELTSIN MEETS KINKEL. German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel met with President Yeltsin in Moscow on 27 January to discuss bilateral relations and European security, Russian and Western agencies reported. Earlier, Yeltsin told journalists that Russia and Germany had no disagreements, except on NATO expansion. He urged Kinkel to change his mind about NATO expansion, saying "It would be a good thing if Russia found an ally in Germany" against NATO expansion. Kinkel, however, reiterated the German view that NATO expansion would not harm Russian interests. Kinkel later met with Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov, and both complimented each other afterwards. Commenting on the warm atmosphere of the visit, NTV noted that Kinkel had refrained from publicly criticizing Russian policy in Chechnya. -- Scott Parrish BALTIN STILL HEADS BLACK SEA FLEET. Despite several high-level statements that he had been fired, Admiral Eduard Baltin continues to command the Black Sea Fleet, UNIAN reported on 27 January. Two days before Baltin had chaired a meeting of the fleet's military council. A fleet spokesman told the agency that neither the Russian Defense Ministry nor main navy headquarters had received any documents calling for Baltin's dismissal. -- Doug Clarke RUSSIA UNABLE TO MEET SOME COUNCIL OF EUROPE CONDITIONS. Russia said on 26 January that it is unwilling or unable to meet some of the conditions attached to its admission to the Council of Europe, AFP reported. A senior Interior Ministry official said that it would be "premature" to ban the death penalty--one of the council's stipulations--and that "two thirds of society agree with this view." In an interview with Ekho Moskvy, Duma Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin said Russia would be unable to end the death penalty in the near future as its prisons do not have the capacity to keep large numbers of prisoners serving life sentences. (In 1994, 154 people received the death penalty, but only two sentences were carried out.) AFP also quoted presidential representatives as saying there are no plans to abolish Yeltsin's 1994 anti-organized crime decree, which permits the detention of suspects for up to 30 days before charges are brought. Human rights activists have derided the council's decision to admit Russia as a mockery of its own ideals. -- Penny Morvant YELTSIN SIGNS SECOND PART OF CIVIL CODE. Part II of the Russian Federation Civil Code will come into force on 1 March, Russian agencies reported. The code was passed by the Duma on 22 December and signed by President Yeltsin on 26 January. It has been called the country's "economic constitution" and covers obligations in transactions such as buying and selling, donating, leasing, and concluding contracts, loans, and credit deals. It does not, however, deal with land transactions. Much of the code is devoted to bank operations and settlements. The first part of the Civil Code came into effect on 1 January 1995, while the third part, which will regulate industrial ownership and the application of international law in civil cases, is being drafted. -- Penny Morvant MINERS, TEACHERS TO STRIKE. Following three days of picketing the Russian government building in Moscow, the Coal Industry Workers' Union said it would go ahead with a national strike on 1 February, international agencies reported. The union said that attempts at solving the industry's problems in talks with the government had failed and that dialogue had to be conducted "from a position of strength." Russian teachers are also planning to go on strike on 30 January to demand the payment of overdue wages, despite a government promise on 28 January to pay all wage arrears "soon." In a bid to win the support of workers ahead of the presidential elections, Yeltsin promised on 26 January to create a special presidential social fund with enough money to pay a month's wages for everyone in Russia. Yeltsin did not say how the fund would work or where the money would come from. -- Penny Morvant BANK CRISIS LOOMING? In a speech to a reform club, Central Bank Chairman Sergei Dubinin said that he expects a serious bank crisis to occur in 1996, Vek reported in issue no. 8. He pointed out that government budget accounts make up a large proportion of bank assets and the near- bankruptcy of many industrial firms means that many loans are non- performing. His fears are shared by the bankers themselves. In a recent survey of 1,300 bankers, 45% said a crisis is "very likely," 44% said "likely," and only 11% said "not likely," Finansovye izvestiya reported on 26 January. The last major bank scare was in August 1995. -- Peter Rutland EXPENSIVE TAX WAIVERS. Mikhail Delyagin, the head of the economics section of the presidential analytic center, complained that the granting of tax waivers to selected firms cost the budget 50 trillion rubles ($10.6 billion) in lost revenue in 1995, ITAR-TASS reported on 26 January. Delyagin said total tax revenues in the consolidated budget (federal and local combined) were 350 trillion rubles ($74 billion) in 1995, or about 29% of GDP. -- Peter Rutland TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA RUSSIA AND KAZAKHSTAN SIGN 16 DEFENSE AGREEMENTS. Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev and his Kazakhstani counterpart, Alibek Kasymov, signed 16 agreements on military cooperation after two days of talks in Almaty, Western and Russian agencies reported on 26 January. One of the agreements committed Russia to transfer five coast guard cutters to Kazakhstan for use in the Caspian Sea. Others involved continued Russian use of the Baikonur cosmodrome, joint air defense operations, and assistance in training the Kazakhstani armed forces. Russia will also provide Kazakhstan with "several dozen" Su-25s, Su-27s, and MiG-29s. Reuters quoted Grachev as ruling out the creation of a joint CIS armed forces. He said that Russia would instead concentrate on building bilateral military ties with its neighbors. -- Doug Clarke FORMER ALLIES ATTACK TAJIK CITIES. Warlords who were formerly loyal to the Tajik government have attacked the Tajik cities of Tursun Zade, west of Dushanbe, and Kurgan-Tyube, in the south, Russian and Western media reported. Former Tursun Zade Mayor Ibod Boimatov, supported by 300 cadres, two tanks, and two armored personnel carriers, entered Tajikistan from neighboring Uzbekistan and captured the aluminum factory in the city on 26 January. There are unconfirmed reports that he also took some Tajik soldiers hostage. In the south, the commander of the first brigade, Mahmud Khudaberdiyev, took control of the police station and government buildings in Kurgan-Tyube on 27 January. In September, the first brigade and a rival unit of the Tajik army, the eleventh brigade, fought several battles. Negotiations are under way, but both men are demanding that the government step down. -- Bruce Pannier RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS TAJIKISTAN, UZBEKISTAN. Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov arrived in the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, on 28 January, to reassure Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov of Moscow's commitment to the Central Asian republic, Russian and Western sources reported. Primakov's visit comes less than a week after the murder of the country's leading Muslim cleric. Primakov and Rakhmonov discussed the inter-Tajik peace talks scheduled to resume this week in Ashgabat, and Primakov reportedly urged the president to find a peaceful solution to the conflict, already in its fourth year. The Russian delegation departed the same night for Tashkent, Uzbekistan, where Primakov met with Uzbek President Islam Karimov to discuss regional security and Russo-Uzbek relations. -- Bruce Pannier ARRESTED COSSACK LEADER RELEASED. Nikolai Gunkin, the head of the Semirechie Cossack organization, was released from prison on 27 January after completing a three-month sentence in Almaty, Russian media reported on 28 January. Gunkin was arrested in October last year while seeking to register as a candidate in the December parliamentary election and was convicted by an Almaty district court of organizing unauthorized political rallies. The Semirechie Cossack organization is seeking registration with the Kazakhstani Justice Ministry. -- Bhavna Dave [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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