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No. 55, Part I, 18 March 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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ DUMA DENOUNCES BELOVEZHSK ACCORDS. The Russian State Duma passed a Communist-sponsored resolution, by a vote of 250-98, renouncing the RSFSR Supreme Soviet decision of 12 December 1991 to abrogate the 1922 treaty forming the USSR, Russian and Western media reported on 15 March. The Duma then passed a second resolution, 252-33 with five abstentions, affirming the "legal force" of the 17 March 1991 referendum on the preservation of the USSR, in which 71% of those voting in Russia supported retaining the union. Together, the Duma resolutions assert that the USSR legally continues to exist, and reject the December 1991 Belovezhsk accords that formed the CIS. The Communist Party of the Russian Federation, the Agrarian Party, and the Popular Power faction supported the resolution. Yabloko, Our Home Is Russia, and several members of the Russian Regions faction opposed it. Repeated attempts to push similar resolutions through the previous Duma had failed. -- Scott Parrish ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIA REACTION TO DUMA DENUNCIATION. President Boris Yeltsin immediately denounced the Duma resolutions as "scandalous" and unconstitutional, Russian and Western media reported on 15 March. The president accused the Communists of attempting to torpedo the June presidential elections by triggering an international crisis. Yeltsin's representative to the Duma, Aleksandr Kotenkov, said the resolution lacks legal force, as the earlier decision to dissolve the USSR can only be repealed by a new federal law, requiring passage by both houses of the Federal Assembly and signature by the president. Following negative international reaction, Yeltsin ordered Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov to inform foreign states and international organizations that the Duma resolution would not affect Russia's international obligations. The U.S. and Germany also criticized the resolution. In Moscow, liberal commentators said it demonstrated the "opportunism" and "hypocrisy" of the Communist- led opposition. -- Scott Parrish COMMUNISTS RALLY IN MEMORY OF SOVIET UNION. After the Duma voted on 15 March to declare the dissolution of the Soviet Union invalid, about 1,000 Communists rallied in Moscow to mark the fifth anniversary of the referendum that supported keeping the USSR together, Western agencies reported. About 76% of the Soviet citizens who voted on 17 March 1991 favored maintaining the territorial integrity of the USSR. The rally attracted fewer people than a similar one at the same time last year despite the Duma resolution. -- Penny Morvant PROCURATORS FIND EVIDENCE OF FORCED SIGNATURES FOR YELTSIN. Deputy Procurator General Vladimir Davydov informed the Duma that his office has found evidence of officials unlawfully pressuring voters to sign petitions supporting President Yeltsin's re-election bid, Russian media reported on 15 March. Davydov singled out the Communications Ministry, the State Committee for Metallurgy, and the East Siberian and Volga railroad administration, but he did not say whether the officials involved would be prosecuted. Central Electoral Commission secretary Aleksandr Veshkyakov suggested amending the electoral law to prohibit signature collections at workplaces. Organizers of Yeltsin's re-election campaign announced last week that they had already collected 8 million signatures supporting the president, far more than the 1 million required to win a spot on the ballot, even if many are ruled invalid. -- Laura Belin ZYUGANOV UNVEILS ELECTION PLATFORM. . . Communist Party (KPRF) leader Gennadii Zyuganov unveiled his election program at a 17 March rally in Moscow, Russian and Western agencies reported. If he comes to power, Zyuganov promised among other things to guarantee all citizens the right to work, increase wages and pensions, compensate those whose savings were eroded by inflation, end the war in Chechnya, strengthen the ruble, and establish a state monopoly on trade in goods "of strategic significance" within a "mixed economy." He denounced the Belovezhsk accords that brought an end to the USSR but promised not to "threaten anyone's sovereignty" if he were elected. Like the KPRF election platform approved before the Duma elections, Zyuganov's platform does not contain the words "Leninism," "communism," or "nationalization." -- Laura Belin . . .AND PICKS UP MORE ENDORSEMENTS. Zyuganov was backed on 15 March by Workers' Russia leader Viktor Anpilov and Union of Officers head Stanislav Terekhov, who on 4 March had refused to sign a pact supporting him as the sole candidate of left-wing and "patriotic" forces, Russian TV reported. More surprisingly, former Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoi appeared at the 17 March KPRF rally; he said he would support Zyuganov despite his differences with the communist program because the people chose the KPRF in December elections, according to ITAR-TASS. (Rutskoi had earlier joined the "third force" group, which was formed to find an alternative to Yeltsin or Zyuganov.) Meanwhile, the latest VCIOM poll shows Zyuganov with 25% support and beating all other major presidential contenders in a head to head contest, NTV reported. However, Yeltsin appears to be narrowing Zyuganov's lead; the same poll measured his support at 15%. -- Laura Belin CHECHEN HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST WOUNDED IN TURKEY. Sait-Emin Ibrahimov, a former transport minister in the rebel Chechen government, was stabbed near Taksim Square in Istanbul on 16 March, Western agencies reported the next day. Hospital officials said the three wounds he received were not life threatening. Living in Istanbul since March of last year, Ibragimov has been leading the Turkey-based Human Rights Committee which releases information on alleged crimes by Russian troops in Chechnya. Ibragimov said he has received threats warning him to "not get involved with peace" ever since he published a book entitled "The State of the World," Reuters reported. -- Lowell Bezanis RUSSIA AND BULGARIA SIGN ECONOMIC ACCORDS. Wrapping up a two-day official visit to Moscow, Bulgarian Prime Minister Zhan Videnov signed six economic cooperation agreements with his Russian counterpart, Viktor Chernomyrdin, Russian and Western agencies reported. The agreements cover bilateral ties in the energy, forestry, and agricultural sectors, as well as the sale to Bulgaria of Russian tanks and armored vehicles. The two leaders emphasized that continued conflict in Chechnya and the Caucasus would not affect their plans to possibly export Russian and Caspian oil to world markets through Bulgaria. Videnov later met with President Yeltsin, and ITAR-TASS reported that they agreed on the need to create a new European security system that does not draw "new lines of division" in Europe, an oblique criticism of NATO expansion, which Videnov opposes. -- Scott Parrish WASHINGTON ASKS MOSCOW ABOUT NUCLEAR TEST. According to a senior U.S. diplomat, Washington has asked Moscow for "clarification" of whether Russia conducted a nuclear test in January in violation of a voluntary moratorium that has been in effect since 1992, AFP reported on 17 March. On 7 March, U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry told Congress that some evidence suggested Russia carried out a small-scale nuclear test at Novaya Zemlya, following allegations published in The Washington Times (see OMRI Daily Digest, 8 March 1996). Russian officials have denied that a test was conducted. -- Constantine Dmitriev NUCLEAR REACTOR SHUT DOWN AFTER SECOND ACCIDENT THIS YEAR. Operations at a nuclear reactor at the Dimitrovgrad research center in Central Russia have been suspended indefinitely after the second accident there in less than two months, Russian and Western agencies reported on 15 March. The decision was made after an air conditioner inside the reactor building caught fire. According to ITAR-TASS, no one was exposed to radiation. At the end of January, a defective valve in the reactor led to the release of a cloud of radioactive vapor that contaminated the area around the facility. -- Penny Morvant SOROS TO HELP RUSSIAN UNIVERSITIES LINK UP TO INTERNET. Billionaire financier and philanthropist George Soros will give $100 million to help 30 regional Russian universities link up to the Internet, Russian and Western agencies reported. The program was announced after a meeting between Soros and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin in Moscow on 15 March. The Russian government will provide telecommunications resources. In recent years, the Soros Foundation has donated $200 million to support science, culture, and education programs in Russia. -- Penny Morvant TRADE DISPUTES OVER CHICKEN, VODKA. On 16 March, the ban on imports of U.S. chickens, announced a month ago by Russia's head veterinarian, Vyacheslav Avilov, went into effect. This occurred despite earlier reports that Russia had agreed to drop the ban (see OMRI Daily Digest, 6 March 1996) . On 18 March, EU Foreign Affairs Commissioner Hans van den Broek arrives in Moscow, and he is expected to protest the 12 March decision to set a minimum price for EU vodka imports at $8.2 per liter, while imports from the CIS can be sold for $3.8. -- Peter Rutland LEGAL CHALLENGE TO LOAN/SHARE AUCTIONS. The Procurator General's Office is preparing to challenge the legality of last fall's 12 share-for-loan auctions in the Arbitration Court, Segodnya reported on 15 March. The purchase of Yukos shares by five companies formed only days before the auction (such as ZAO Laguna), with financial backing from Menatep Bank, is to be one of the issues raised. The procurator will argue that the list of firms should have been fixed by the government, not by the State Property Committee, according to President Yeltsin's original August 1995 decree, and that the procedure for running the auctions was not registered with the Justice Ministry. Radio Rossii reported on 16 March that the Chelyabinsk procurator is investigating the theft of 22 billion rubles ($4.5 million) received from the sale of shares in Magnitogorsk metal combine. -- Peter Rutland TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA CENTRAL ASIAN REACTIONS TO RUSSIAN DUMA'S CIS DECISION. Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev said the Russian State Duma's resolution to declare the dissolution of the USSR unconstitutional is "conducive to a sharp destabilization," noting that it could, in the end, destroy Russian statehood, according to a 17 March press release cited by the BBC. Uzbek Radio reported that Uzbekistan's Oliy Majlis (parliament) condemned the measure in a 16 March vote, with speaker Erkin Khalilov declaring that the Duma had "grossly infringed on the political states of sovereign Uzbekistan. Official statements from Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan stressed the internal nature of the vote, saying that it would not affect their own state sovereignty, ITAR-TASS reported. Reaction was similar in the Transcaucasus, with Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossyan calling the vote a "provocation" and Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze stating that the vote "could only harm" the integration of the CIS states, RFE/RL reported on 15 March. -- Roger Kangas PRICE HIKES, SACKING IN TURKMENISTAN. Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov raised bread prices 150% and sacked the governor [hakim] of Mary province [vilayet], Kurban Orazov, on 15 March, Western media reported the same day. Orazov will be replaced by Deputy Prime Minister Amannazar Ilamov. According to Reuters, Niyazov was shown on state television threatening to dismiss officials who fail to provide the population with "adequate food." There have been sporadic and unconfirmed reports of popular protests at bread shortages in Turkmenistan and several regional officials have lost their jobs recently. After Niyazov sacked 10 of 50 local administration heads for failing to meet state orders for wheat supplies in August 1995, it has become apparent that last year's grain harvest fell short of officially reported totals. -- Lowell Bezanis KYRGYZ ARMY BESET BY ECONOMIC, ETHNIC PROBLEMS. The Kyrgyz army is beset by illiteracy, poor health, low pay, and regionalism, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 14 March. A number of first-year conscripts weigh only 45-50 kg, instead of the standard weight requirement of 60-70 kg. The average pay of an officer is only a fifth of what the Russia Border Troops earn; whereas the 10 som monthly pay of a conscript is equivalent to the price of a tube of toothpaste. It quoted Colonel Talgarbek Ismailov, the military commissar of Naryn region in Central Kyrgyzstan, as saying in an interview with Respublika that "tribalism" is a key problem in the Kyrgyz army, as officers from the north are reluctant to serve in the south. -- 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. Before reprinting or redistributing this publication, please write email@example.com for a copy of the new policy or look at this URL: http://www.omri.cz/Publications/Digests/DigestReprint.html OMRI also publishes the biweekly journal Transition, which contains expanded analysis of many of the topics in the Daily Digest. 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
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