|A friend is a gift you give yourself. - Robert Louis Stevenson|
No. 24, Part I, 02 February 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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ TENSE STANDOFF IN DUSHANBE. Rebel forces loyal to Colonel Mahmud Khudaberdiyev and Ibodullo Baimatov have advanced to within 15 km of the Tajik capital Dushanbe, Reuters reported on 2 February. A spokesman for Khudaberdiyev said the forces "have no intention of entering" the capital but are calling on the parliament to dismiss the government. On 1 February, Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov said in an address to parliament that he had no intention of dismissing the government and accused "foreign forces" of working to "wipe the republic off the map." Meanwhile, pro-government fighters have gathered in a stadium in Dushanbe and are said to be preparing for a fight with rebel forces that have occupied the southern city of Kurgan-Tyube and the western city of Tursun Zade. In related news, RFE/RL sources reported that as many as 100 Tajik government soldiers are missing as a result of fighting in the Tavil Dara region of Garm. -- Lowell Bezanis and Bruce Pannier ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIA SPEAKERS OF FEDERATION COUNCIL, DUMA AGREE TO COOPERATE. Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev and State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev agreed that the two houses of parliament should cooperate more on drafting legislation, Russian media reported on 1 February. They vowed not to repeat the experience of the last parliament, in which the Council turned down about half the laws passed by the Duma, and the president returned some poorly-drafted laws to parliament due to technical flaws, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. Working together on legislation may be easier said than done. Although left-wing opposition deputies have a working majority in the 450-seat Duma, at least 99 of the 178 Council deputies are considered "loyal Yeltsinists," while only 28 are consistent "oppositionists," Obshchaya gazeta reported in its 11- 17 January edition. -- Laura Belin MINERS' STRIKE CONTINUES. Union leaders said on 2 February that about 450,000 Russian miners are continuing to strike and that about 170 of the nation's 245 mines have been shut down, Russian and Western agencies reported. Rosugol said on 1 February that work had stopped that day at 118 of the country's 182 mines and 27 of its 63 opencast pits. Union representatives said about half a million miners had joined the strike. In Vorkuta, at a demonstration in support of the miners on 1 February, about 7,000 residents called on the government to resign because of its inability to pay workers' wages. Presidential economics adviser Aleksandr Livshits said that the government has now paid the 600 billion rubles ($130 million) it owed in wage arrears for 1995. -- Penny Morvant DUMA TO REVIEW PRIVATIZATION RESULTS. Deputies voted on 31 January to set up a commission to review the results of privatization from 1992 to 1995, Segodnya reported the following day. The commission has until 6 March to compile a list of issues to be considered in analyzing the first and second stages of privatization, to determine the materials to be used in the analysis, to hear reports from the officials who prepared those materials, and to review the activities of enterprises that broke the law. The paper quoted a Yabloko deputy as saying he believed the material gathered by the commission would be used for political ends in the run-up to the presidential election. -- Penny Morvant ELECTORAL COMMISSION CLARIFIES RULES ON PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN. The Central Electoral Commission (TsIK) announced that presidential candidates will be able to spend a maximum of 14.5 billion rubles ($3.1 million) during the campaign, ITAR-TASS reported on 1 February. Individual contributions will be limited to about 2.88 million rubles ($610), and legal entities will be allowed to donate up to 288 million rubles ($61,000). Candidates will be required to make all campaign- related deposits and withdrawals at special Sberbank accounts. The TsIK also published detailed rules covering signature collection in Rossiiskaya gazeta on 1 February. Candidates will need to submit at least 1 million signatures by 16 April to be registered, with no more than 70,000 signatures from any one region of Russia. Rules on campaign financing were not enforced during the Duma campaign, and parties seeking registration routinely ignored the prohibition on paying for signatures. -- Laura Belin MORE COMMUNISTS UNITE BEHIND ZYUGANOV. The Communist Party of the Russian Federation will not officially nominate Gennadii Zyuganov for president until mid-February, but his campaign continues to attract allies. On 1 February, Oleg Shenin, chairman of the Union of Communist Parties-Communist Party of the Soviet Union, gave Zyuganov's candidacy his blessing, Ekho Moskvy and Russian TV reported. Like Viktor Anpilov's Workers' Russia, which has also endorsed Zyuganov, Shenin's party is small, but its support reduces the chances that a far-left candidate will split the communist vote in June. Shenin estimated that there are 35 million communist and patriotic voters in Russia, enough to decide the presidential election in the first round if they unite behind Zyuganov. About 69 million Russians voted in the December parliamentary elections. -- Laura Belin DUMA TO MONITOR DEFENSE SPENDING. The State Duma instructed three of its committees to investigate state spending on defense orders, ITAR-TASS reported on 31 January. Aleksandr Vengerovskii of the Liberal Democratic Party, who proposed the measure, said the investigation should not have a negative impact on purchasing programs that have already been adopted. The committees involved are: Budget, chaired by Yabloko member Mikhail Zadornov; Defense, led by Our Home Is Russia's Lev Rokhlin; and Security, headed by the Communist Party's Viktor Ilyukhin. -- Doug Clarke YEGOROV WILL LOBBY FOR MILITARY AVIATION. Presidential Chief of Staff Nikolai Yegorov announced on 1 February that he will "lobby the government and president for the interests of military aviation" at a meeting of the Military Council of the Russian air forces, Izvestiya reported. Yegorov, a member of the council, said aircraft and space technology is "the locomotive which leads the development of all other industrial sectors," Russian TV reported. The chief of staff said that the shortage of money for the air forces was "temporary." Russia has contracts for $6.5 billion in military aircraft abroad in 1996, he asserted. If these plans are realized, he said, Russia would become the second largest arms supplier on the world market, providing significant funds to further develop the air force. According to Russian Public TV (ORT), Russia did not have enough money to buy a single military airplane in 1995 although it needed about 250-300 to preserve military readiness. -- Robert Orttung ALPHA VETERAN SUPPORTS MOVES TO STRENGTHEN SECURITY SERVICES. Sergei Goncharov, the president of the Association of Alpha Veterans, supports the moves of Federal Security Service Director Mikhail Barsukov to reintegrate the security services, according to an interview in Germes (#1-2). When the democrats came to power in 1991, they destroyed the KGB by dividing its functions among a variety of agencies, Goncharov argued. The results were the ineffective responses to situations like the hostage taking in Budennovsk. Goncharov is a close associate of Duma member Aleksandr Lebed. -- Robert Orttung PAK WANTS LEANER, MEANER MILITARY. Zinovii Pak, the new head of the State Committee for the Defense Industry, has proposed a draft program that calls for a smaller but better armed military, ITAR-TASS reported on 1 February. The program was jointly developed by the Defense and Economics ministries on the principle of "reasonable sufficiency." Pak was said to have recently told President Boris Yeltsin that a military as large as once existed would be an unnecessary burden to Russia. Unless a program like his draft proposal was adopted, he feared that the defense industry would not survive. -- Doug Clarke YELTSIN ORDERS PROMPT PAYMENT OF STATE SECTOR WAGES. President Yeltsin issued a decree on 1 February on additional measures to ensure the prompt payment of salaries to public sector workers, Radio Rossii reported. It calls for stricter schedules for paying state sector employees, including the military and police. The prime minister is to report to the president on the issue at least every other week and to identify officials responsible for delays. Meanwhile, the deputy commander of the Interior Ministry's Internal Troops told ITAR-TASS on 2 February that his men, including those serving in Chechnya, are experiencing severe financial difficulties. He said troops outside Chechnya are still owed money for November, adding that the Chechen operation had cost the Internal Troops 670 billion rubles (about $146 million) in 1995, but they had only received 88 billion rubles ($19 million) from the government. -- Penny Morvant RADIOACTIVE GAS ESCAPES FROM NUCLEAR REACTOR. A cloud of radioactive gas and steam leaked into the atmosphere from a nuclear reactor at a research institute in Dmitrovgrad in central Russia, Russian and Western agencies reported on 1 February. The gas escaped when a safety valve at the reactor blew on 31 January. Reports on the extent of the contamination varied, but it reportedly posed no threat to the health of institute employees or the local population. -- Penny Morvant IMF AND RUSSIA REACH BROAD AGREEMENT ON 1996 PROGRAM. Russia and the IMF have reached a broad agreement on a three-year $9 billion extended fund facility for Russia, Russian and Western agencies reported on 31 January, citing a Russian Central Bank announcement. U.S. President Bill Clinton backed the program. It is unclear, however, whether the IMF economic program, which calls for a further decline in inflation and a tough monetary policy, will be acceptable to Russia. The government recently announced that it will increase social spending and support domestic industry. The IMF Board of Governors is expected to make a final decision on the $9 billion loan in late February. -- Natalia Gurushina JANUARY INFLATION RATE HITS 4.1%. In the first month of 1996, Russia's inflation rate was 4.1%, a marked increase over December's 3.2% but well below the 17.8% rate in January 1995, ITAR-TASS reported on 1 February, citing the State Statistical Committee. Prices of food products went up by 4% and non-food products by 2.7% (in December 1995, the figures were 3.4% and 3%). However, prices of services rocketed up by 8.1% (compared with 3% in December 1995). Given the recent pro-conservative cabinet reshuffle, January's inflation increase has sparked concern that the government might not be able to meet its promise to bring the monthly inflation rate for 1996 down to 1.9%. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA YELTSIN SENDS BATURIN TO TAJIKISTAN. President Boris Yeltsin has sent his security adviser, Yurii Baturin, to Dushanbe for talks with Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov. Speaking at the airport, Baturin told reporters that the purpose of his visit is "to contribute to a settlement and to defuse the tension in Tajikistan," Russian media reported on 1 February. In related news, Uzbekistan's Foreign Ministry and parliament sent a joint appeal to the Tajik president and people expressing concern with the situation in Tajikistan and urging the sides involved to exercise restraint and work toward a peaceful settlement of the conflict, according to an Uzbek TV report on 31 January cited by the BBC. -- Lowell Bezanis and Bruce Pannier DRUG CONVICTIONS UP IN KAZAKHSTAN. Drug trafficking convictions in Kazakhstan increased by 41% last year, according to an RFE/RL report of 31 January. In his annual address on the state of Kazakhstan's courts and legal system, Justice Minister Konstantin Kolpakov reported a 15% increase in serious crime, noting that 74,000 criminal and 115,500 civil cases were tried last year. He did not give the total number of crimes recorded, but emphasized that the government was cracking down on crime despite a continuing shortage of trained legal personnel and law enforcement officials. He also urged the parliament to adopt a new criminal code. -- Bhavna Dave TRIAL OF GAMSAKHURDIA SUPPORTERS ADJOURNED. The trial of Loti Kobalia, head of the military forces loyal to the late President Zviad Gamsakhurdia, and of four other Gamsakhurdia aides charged with state treason, fomenting civil war, and banditry, opened in Tbilisi on 1 February but was immediately adjourned because the lawyer representing one of the defendants was not present, Ekho Moskvy reported. Former Georgian Defense Minister Tengiz Kitovani, currently on trial for creating an illegal military formation with the intention of reconquering Abkhazia, has been hospitalized in Tbilisi after suffering a heart attack, AFP reported on 2 February. -- Liz Fuller [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. 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For Transition subscription information send an e-mail to TRANSITION@OMRI.CZ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. ISSN 1211-1570 Greg Cole, Director Center for International Networking Initiatives The University of Tennessee System Phone: (423) 974-7277 2000 Lake Avenue FAX: (423) 974-8022 Knoxville, TN 37996 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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