|History is made out of the failures and heroism of each insignificant moment. - Franz Kafka|
No. 30, Part I, 12 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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ KYRGYZSTAN VOTES MORE POWER FOR AKAEV. More than 96% of Kyrgyzstan's 2.36 million eligible voters took part in the 10 February referendum on constitutional changes, international agencies reported. More than 94% of those voting approved the draft law, proposed by President Askar Akayev less than two weeks after he was reelected president on 24 December, that concentrates much more power in the hands of the president. Akayev now appoint all top ministers, except the prime minister, whose candidacy needs the approval of parliament. According to Reuters, Akayev is already promising "big government changes." -- Bruce Pannier ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIA STATE DUMA PASSES AMNESTY FOR CHECHEN GUERRILLAS. The Duma passed a decree on 9 February offering an amnesty to nine Chechen militants who participated in the January hostage-taking in Kizlyar and Pervomaiskoe and who are currently in Russian captivity, on condition that the 12 Russian OMON troops held by Dudaev's forces are released, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. On 10 February, the supporters of Dudaev who had demonstrated for six days in Grozny to demand the withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya and the resignation of the pro-Moscow government of Doku Zavgaev, dispersed peacefully, NTV reported. Up to ten people had died in shooting during efforts to disperse the demonstrators by Russian troops. A contingent of Russian troops withdrew on 11 February from Shatoi Raion following the signing of a peace protocol and an agreement to exchange prisoners by Russian federal troops commander Lt.-Gen. Vyacheslav Tikhomirov, Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Abdulla Bugaev, and local officials, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Liz Fuller MORE REDS AND BROWNS BACK ZYUGANOV. Leaders of 17 left-wing opposition movements, including Viktor Anpilov's Workers' Russia, agreed in Moscow to back Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) leader Gennadii Zyuganov for president, NTV reported on 11 February. However, a meeting of extreme nationalist movements in St. Petersburg failed to produce unanimity. Groups including Pamyat and the National-Republican Party of Russia endorsed Zyuganov's candidacy, but Eduard Limonov, the emigre novelist turned leader of the National-Bolshevik Party, denounced Zyuganov for not being a true communist. Limonov surprisingly called on nationalist forces to support President Boris Yeltsin's re-election. Meanwhile, the KPRF says it has already collected more than 1.4 million signatures supporting Zyuganov's nomination (only 1 million are needed to put him on the ballot), according to NTV. However, as the preparations for the presidential elections continue a VCIOM survey found almost two-thirds of Russians expect some level of falsification of the election results, Radio Mayak reported on 9 February. -- Laura Belin GAIDAR'S PARTY PROPOSES NEMTSOV FOR PRESIDENT. In an attempt to find a consensus candidate who might make the second round of the presidential elections, the Moscow branch of Yegor Gaidar's Russia's Democratic Choice party proposed nominating Nizhnii Novgorod Governor Boris Nemtsov for the presidency, Russian media reported on 11 February. Gaidar suggested that Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii, who has open presidential ambitions, could be prime minister under a Nemtsov administration, Russian TV reported. However, Yavlinskii is unlikely to agree to such a deal, and Nemtsov told NTV that despite Gaidar's suggestion he has no plans to run for president. -- Laura Belin CADRE RESHUFFLES. Vladimir Antipov has been appointed deputy head of the presidential administration and head of the administration for state service and cadres, Radio Rossii reported on 11 February. Meanwhile, Oleg Vyugin was appointed deputy minister of finance in charge of macroeconomic policy and the securities market, Segodnya reported 9 February. The next day, ITAR-TASS reported that President Yeltsin had fired Deputy Finance Minister Stanislav Korolev for culpability in the delay of releasing funds to cover wage arrears. -- Peter Rutland ANOTHER ZHIRINOVSKY PUBLICITY STUNT. In a ceremony where television crews reportedly outnumbered the guests, Vladimir Zhirinovsky wed his wife again in a Moscow church, 25 years after they were first married, Russian and Western agencies reported on 11 February. Invoking fanfare reminiscent of the tsarist era, the couple arrived in a horse-drawn troika and offered free money and candy, plus a glass of Zhirinovsky- brand vodka, to the crowd of onlookers. The leader of the French National Front, Jean-Marie Le Pen, was a guest of honor. On 10 February, Le Pen endorsed Zhirinovsky's candidacy for president and announced plans to co-found a "European center for right-wing forces" with him later this spring. -- Laura Belin KOSTIKOV SUBMITS RESIGNATION. Russian Ambassador to the Vatican Vyacheslav Kostikov has submitted his resignation, Russian and Western agencies reported on 10 February. Kostikov, who served as President Boris Yeltsin's press secretary from May 1992 to December 1994, came under fire from the Foreign Ministry last week for critical statements he made about Yeltsin in a 4 February interview with NTV (see OMRI Daily Digest, 7 February 1996). On 11 February, NTV broadcast a second segment of the interview, in which Kostikov again described Yeltsin as obsessed with power and denounced what he termed the excessive influence of presidential bodyguard Aleksandr Korzhakov. Nevertheless, Kostikov closed by arguing that Yeltsin remains the only figure in Russia who can prevent a "communist revanche." -- Scott Parrish PRIMAKOV AND CHRISTOPHER HOLD TALKS. Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov and his American counterpart Warren Christopher held seven hours of talks in Helsinki on 9 and 10 February, Russian and Western agencies reported. At a subsequent press conference, the two diplomats tried to put the best possible spin on their first meeting, with Christopher terming it "a very good start" and Primakov calling their talks "very useful." Primakov admitted, however, that differences, especially on the possible enlargement of NATO, continue to divide the two countries, although he pledged that they would be resolved without "confrontation." Primakov also assured Christopher that Russia will adhere to UN sanctions against Iraq until it fulfills the conditions laid out by the UN Security Council, but he rejected U.S. criticism of Russia's sale of nuclear reactors to Iran, which he denied would help Tehran obtain nuclear weapons. -- Scott Parrish TALKS ON ABM TREATY TO CONTINUE. After meeting with Christopher, Primakov told ITAR-TASS on 10 February that the two diplomats had agreed to search for a mutually acceptable resolution of the ongoing talks on the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty. The talks seek to outline technical parameters defining which interceptor systems are "tactical" and permitted by the treaty, and which are "strategic" and hence banned. The United States wants to develop new "tactical" ABM systems, but Russia rejected earlier American proposals for distinguishing between the two types of systems, which they claimed undermined the logic of the treaty. Primakov said he agrees with those Duma deputies who argue that START II should only be ratified if the United States continues to adhere to the ABM treaty. -- Scott Parrish and Doug Clarke GRACHEV THREATENS TO COUNTER NATO. Speaking at a 9 February press conference closing a two-day official visit to Belgrade, Defense Minister Pavel Grachev said Russia would take "appropriate measures" to counter enlargement of NATO, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 February. If NATO accepts new members, Russia "would start to look for partners in Eastern and Central Europe and in the CIS with a view to setting up a military- political alliance," Grachev warned. One of the results of Grachev's visit was the signing of a bilateral military cooperation agreement, under which Russia will consider supplying Yugoslavia with spare parts for its Soviet-designed weapons systems, and also consider selling new weapons to Belgrade, according to NTV. Under the Dayton Accords, Yugoslavia can purchase "defensive weapons" from 13 March. -- Scott Parrish and Doug Clarke GERMANY COMPENSATES FORMER NAZI PRISONERS. Germany has paid compensation to 7,500 former Nazi concentration camp inmates in Novgorod Oblast, ITAR-TASS reported on 11 February. The former prisoners received DM 30 ($20) for every month they spent in the camps. The payments follow the recognition three years ago that former inmates have a right to compensation and the subsequent creation of a Fund for Mutual Understanding and Reconciliation, financed by Germany, with branches in 12 regions. Prior to the 1992 agreement, Germany had not paid any money to Nazi victims in Russia. Gennadii Medvedev, the fund's representative in Novgorod, said that testimony from three to five former inmates is sufficient to secure compensation. -- Penny Morvant KULIKOV URGES NATIONALIZATION OF COMMERCIAL BANKS. In an unusual foray into the economic sphere, Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov submitted proposals to the government on 9 February for raising extra revenue for the cash-strapped army and Interior Ministry (MVD), ITAR-TASS reported. Kulikov's suggestions included nationalizing some commercial banks and raising oil export tariffs. The MVD, overstretched by the military campaign in Chechnya, had debts of 3.4 trillion rubles ($720 million) at the beginning of the year. Meanwhile, 63 prison guards on hunger strike in Kareliya ended their five-day fast on 9 February after receiving assurances from the Finance Ministry that the 19 billion rubles the Kareliyan police are owed will soon be paid. -- Penny Morvant GOVERNMENT DEBATES PROTECTIONISM. At its 9 February meeting, the government discussed measures to protect domestic manufacturers from foreign competition, Russian TV reported. Economics Minister Yevgenii Yasin stressed the importance of export promotion, such as lifting remaining export duties, introducing export credits, and exempting exports to the CIS from VAT. (Exports to the "far abroad" are already exempt.) Yasin argued against the idea of import quotas, saying "we have done all we can" given the rules of the World Trade Organization. However, newly appointed First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Kadannikov suggested introducing more radical measures such as import quotas and criticized Yasin's draft for failing to address the problems of specific industrial sectors. Yasin's proposal was sent back for two weeks' reworking. Imports account for more than half of consumer goods sales, according to Ekonomika i zhizn no. 5. That paper wryly observed that "everything with which we are competitive, from the SU-27 fighter bomber down to our ballet, was created during the 70-year period of communist rule." -- Peter Rutland INDUSTRIAL OUTPUT DOWN 5% IN JANUARY. Russia's industrial output continues to slide, falling 5% in the first month of 1996 in comparison with January 1995, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 February, citing the State Statistical Committee. Total output was valued at 97 trillion rubles ($20.5 billion). Production of electrical goods plunged by 60%, while output of clothes and shoes halved in comparison with January 1995. Crude oil production was down 3%, natural gas fell 0.3%, and fuel oil 14%. The decline in these sectors is attributable to shrinking demand and increasing stockpiles of manufactured goods. Output did rise in a number of sectors: fertilizers by 5% and electrical energy by 1%. -- Natalia Gurushina FOREIGNERS ENTER STATE SECURITIES MARKET. For the first time on 7 February foreigners were allowed to participate in an auction of state securities. They bid for bonds worth 120 billion rubles ($25 million), less than 2% of the 6.5 trillion-ruble issue, Kommersant-daily reported the next day. The slow start may be due to the fact that the Central Bank requires foreigners' bids to be mediated by Russian banks (currently Eurobank), thus reducing yields earned by foreign traders. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA LEADER OF RUSSIAN CENTER IN KAZAKHSTAN FACES CRIMINAL CHARGES. Nina Sidorova, the leader of the movement Russian Center, is being charged with contempt of court for filing a civil case against President Nursultan Nazarbayev for allegedly defaming her and the Russian Center on state TV, Radio Rossii reported on 10 February. An Almaty court on 9 February refused to examine her case, claiming that the president is immune to all criminal proceedings. The Justice Ministry has refused to register Russian Center as a public organization. Just 3 days before last December's parliamentary elections, the authorities revoked Sidorova's registration in Almaty as an independent candidate, accusing her of making anti-constitutional remarks. -- Bhavna Dave KAZAKHSTAN SIMPLIFIES PASSPORT SYSTEM. Kazakhstan has done away with the old Soviet-era practice that required citizens to have a mandatory residential registration stamp (propiska) and to indicate their nationality on their passports, Russian Public TV reported on 11 February. -- Bhavna Dave [As of 1200 CET] Compiled by Penny Morvant 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. 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