|Comedy is an escape, not from truth but from despair; a narrow escape into faith. - Christopher Fry|
No. 56, Part I, 19 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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ ZYUGANOV CLAIMS YELTSIN PLOTTING TO DISSOLVE DUMA. Communist Party (KPRF) leader Gennadii Zyuganov stood by his 18 March allegations that President Boris Yeltsin's camp is preparing measures to dissolve the Duma, despite Yeltsin's assurance that he has no such plan and that Zyuganov "does not need to ride to work in an armored personnel carrier." In an interview with Ekho Moskvy, Zyuganov claimed the president's circle is "distorting facts" to prepare the ground for action against the Duma. Meanwhile, Yeltsin adviser Georgii Satarov told ITAR-TASS that the Kremlin will not hand such a "gift" to the Communists before the presidential elections, and an ITAR-TASS commentator suggested that Zyuganov's accusation is designed to attract public sympathy by portraying his party as a victim of official intrigues. -- Laura Belin ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIA FEDERATION COUNCIL TO CONSIDER DUMA DENUNCIATION. President Yeltsin has asked the Federation Council, the upper house of parliament, to examine the Duma's denunciation of the Belavezha accords at its 19 March session, Russian media reported on 18 March. Council Speaker Yegor Stroev said the upper house would try to find a "mutually acceptable way out of the situation." In thinly-veiled criticism of Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov, Stroev said the council would not be governed by the "wave of populism that certain participants in the [presidential] election campaign are trying to use," ITAR-TASS reported. Sources inside both houses of parliament indicate that lawmakers are searching for a face-saving way to settle the issue following the storm of protest provoked by the Duma's action. -- Laura Belin PRIMAKOV ATTACKS DUMA RESOLUTION. Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov blasted the recent Duma resolutions denouncing the Belavezha accords that formed the CIS, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 March. Primakov said the resolutions undermined Russia's reputation as a reliable international partner, and by effectively denying the sovereignty of the other former Soviet republics, would "virtually torpedo the trend towards integration" within the CIS. Primakov added that the Duma's actions would strengthen the arguments of Eastern European supporters of NATO expansion, fostering the impression that Russian policy is unpredictable and aims to re-establish the USSR. Duma International Affairs Committee Chairman Vladimir Lukin (Yabloko), who voted against the resolutions, echoed these comments, saying the Duma had handed the proponents of NATO expansion "a real trump card." -- Scott Parrish FILATOV ON CAMPAIGN TRAIL. Visiting Kaluga Oblast on 18 March, Sergei Filatov, one of President Yeltsin's top campaign organizers, emphasized the central message of the president's campaign: anti-communism. Filatov said the contest between Yeltsin and Zyuganov will be a "battle between two systems," one that would preserve the reforms, and another that would destroy economic and political stability in the country, Radio Rossii reported. Filatov also told ITAR-TASS that Yeltsin will unveil his election platform on 6 April. -- Laura Belin KARACHAEVO-CHERKESSIYA ADOPTS CONSTITUTION. The republic of Karachaevo- Cherkessiya has a new constitution, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 March. In February, the Congress of Karachaevo-Cherkess Peoples denounced an earlier draft of the constitution for strengthening the personal authority of current republican head Vladimir Khubiev. Republican parliament member Murat Khatukaev worked out an alternative draft, modeled on a parliamentary rather than presidential system, but it was not considered. -- Anna Paretskaya RUSSIA BACKTRACKS ON CONTACT GROUP MEETING. Reversing a decision announced on 15 March, Russia decided at the last minute to send an observer to the 18 March meeting of the international Contact Group on the former Yugoslavia, ITAR-TASS reported. Earlier, Russian spokesmen had described the U.S.-sponsored meeting with the Serbian, Croatian, and acting Bosnian presidents as "useless," since the foreign ministers of the Contact Group have long been scheduled to meet in Moscow on 23 March. Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov agreed to send a counselor to participate in the Geneva meeting after U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher assured him that the session would only be a prelude to the Moscow meeting. Russian diplomats were annoyed that the last-minute Geneva meeting, organized by the U.S., might overshadow the long-planned Moscow session. -- Scott Parrish EUROPEANS URGED TO GET TOUGH OVER CHECHNYA. Human Rights Watch urged European governments to pressure Moscow to end human rights abuses in Chechnya, Western agencies reported on 18 March. Rachel Denber, head of the organization's Moscow office, criticized the EU for ratifying an interim trade accord with Russia this past November despite continued fighting in Chechnya, which she estimated had killed 9,000 civilians. Lotte Licht, another spokesperson for Human Rights Watch, urged the EU and the Council of Europe to end their "silent diplomacy" on Chechnya and "make it absolutely clear to Moscow that violations must cease." Meanwhile, EU External Relations Commissioner Hans van den Broek, visiting Moscow, expressed "concern" with the excessive use of force by federal troops in Chechnya, but he blamed the continued fighting on separatist Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev. He said Dudaev's "impossible" demand for independence had blocked any negotiated settlement. -- Scott Parrish LACK OF LEGISLATION PREVENTS RUSSIA FROM DESTROYING CHEMICAL WEAPONS. Protests by environmentalists and the lack of appropriate legislation continue to prevent Russia from implementing the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention, Russian TV reported on 18 March. Plans to construct a chemical weapons destruction facility to process the mustard gas and lewisite near Gornyi in Saratov Oblast (see OMRI Daily Digest, 24 January 1996) have been stalled by local environmentalists demanding further safety studies. Meanwhile, the steel tanks in which the chemicals are stored could start leaking. The State Duma has yet to ratify the 1993 convention and it has not passed legislation on the destruction of chemical weapons. -- Constantine Dmitriev GERMANY TO SEND PLUTONIUM TO RUSSIA FOR TESTING. Germany will send a 10g sample of the 360g of plutonium seized by its agents at the Munich airport in August 1994 to Russia for testing, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 March, citing German government official Bernd Schmidbauer. German media reports in February claimed that the material was stolen from a research reactor at Obninsk, southwest of Moscow, but the Federal Security Service said the origins of the plutonium could only be determined after tests were carried out and criticized Bonn for failing to respond to its request for a sample (see OMRI Daily Digest, 13 and 14 February 1996). A German parliamentary commission has been investigating the plutonium case since May 1995 following allegations that the German security services instigated the operation to pressure Moscow into taking more steps to prevent the theft of nuclear material. -- Penny Morvant RUSSIA GETS 900 MILLION ECU GRANT FROM EU. The EU signed an agreement with Russia on 18 March to provide a 900 million ($1.14 billion) ECU grant under the TACIS program to facilitate economic restructuring and set up business training programs, Western agencies and ITAR-TASS reported. The deal was negotiated by EU External Relations Commissioner Hans van den Broek and Russian First Deputy Premier Vladimir Kadannikov. Foreign Economic Relations Minister Oleg Davydov said that part of the grant may be used for modernizing the Russian textile industry. He noted that if the EU participates in reconstructing this sector, the government may refrain from imposing quotas on EU textile imports. -- Natalia Gurushina NEW $100 BILLS TO ENTER CIRCULATION. Assistant Treasury Secretary Darcy Bradbury said the U.S. will start issuing new version $100 bills next week, Reuters reported on 19 March. The new design will be more difficult to counterfeit. Some $20 billion in cash is thought to be held by Russians, most of it in $100 bills. There is concern that Russians may panic when the new bills appear, fearing that the old ones will not be accepted. A major publicity campaign has been launched to reassure Russians that the U.S. government will continue to redeem the old $100 bills in perpetuity. The Russian government persuaded banks to limit their commission for changing new bills for old to 2%, although there are already reports of banks charging up to 5% to cash in torn or defaced bills. -- Peter Rutland TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA KARIMOV SUPPORTIVE OF RUSSIA'S ROLE IN CENTRAL ASIA. Uzbek President Islam Karimov sent a telegram to President Boris Yeltsin in which he rejected the Russian State Duma's resolution to denounce the Belavezha accords, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 March. Karimov also expressed support for Russia's democratic reforms and Russo-Uzbek cooperation. He noted that there is no alternative to the CIS and affirmed Russia's right to play a "leading role" in the region. Such praise is tempered by some Uzbek government statements, for example following Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov's visit to Tashkent in January, stressing that Russia should recognize Uzbekistan's status as an "equal partner." -- Roger Kangas NIYAZOV IN AZERBAIJAN. Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov signed several agreements with his Azerbaijani counterpart, Heidar Aliev, during a visit to Baku on 18 March, Russian and Azerbaijani agencies reported. The agreements included a friendship and cooperation treaty, and accords on free trade, pensions, an international air corridor, national security, education, health care, and exchanges of legal and scientific information, Turan reported. According to Russian Public TV (ORT), Niyazov expressed his desire to see Turkmenistan's hydro-carbons moved to Western markets via Azerbaijan and Georgia. Niyazov's press secretary told Turan that Turkmenistan wants all states bordering on the Caspian Sea to determine the status of the sea and to cooperate in fighting naval piracy and weapons and drugs smuggling. -- Lowell Bezanis MEDIA CRACKDOWN IN AZERBAIJAN. A harassment campaign aimed at opposition journalists attempting to cover the work of the recently-elected Milli Mejlis (People's Assembly) is continuing, according to Turan on 16 March. The correspondents for Turan and the Azerbaijan Popular Front newspaper Azadlyg have been deprived of their accreditation. In addition, parliament member Jalal Aliev, Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev's brother, has called for the closure of all opposition newspapers. -- Liz Fuller RUSSIAN NEWSPAPER ASSESSES SITUATION IN TAJIKISTAN. In an analysis of the Russian presence in Tajikistan, the 17-24 March edition of the Russian newspaper Nezavisimaya gazeta noted that "it would be a big mistake" to allow countries such as Iran and Pakistan to gain access to Tajikistan's strategic resources such as uranium ore. The report also noted that cotton, which is abundant in Tajikistan, is important for the production of explosives. The article claimed that Tajikistan's radar stations had been destroyed during the civil war and that "a plane could fly without any problem from Tajikistan straight to Moscow unnoticed." The article also reported that a Russian credit of 80 billion rubles earmarked for the ethnic Russian community in Tajikistan had "disappeared into thin air." It concluded that Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov is too weak to protect Russia's interests in the region but that there is no suitable replacement at this time. -- Bruce Pannier KAZAKHSTANI DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER DISMISSED. President Nursultan Nazarbayev on 14 March relieved First Deputy Prime Minister Vitalii Mette from his post, ITAR-TASS reported. Mette's ouster, the first major change in the top echelons of power, was likely brought about by internal squabbles within the government and the need to blame a scapegoat for the country's poor economic performance, ITAR-TASS added. Mette, the former director of the nuclear fuel producer Ulba Metallurgical Plant in East Kazakhstan, was appointed first deputy prime minister a year and a half ago. -- Bhavna Dave KAZAKHSTAN LAUNCHES A UNIFORM POLICY ON NAMING PLACES. In an effort to regulate the onomastics policy of naming places according to their etymology, the Kazakhstani government issued a formal statement on the rules of naming and renaming geographical locations, organizations, streets, and government offices, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 March. According to this statement, original place names that were changed arbitrarily are to be restored. Transliterations of the new names in Russian and other languages are to be based on the original spelling in Kazakh. Since Kazakh was declared the sole state language in 1993, several thousand names of regions, cities, towns, and streets have been changed from Russian, or russified renderings of Kazakh names, to what government officials claim to be the original Kazakh names, based on Kazakh orthography. -- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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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