|He who receives an idea from me receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mind, receives light without darkening me. - Thomas Jefferson|
No. 57, Part I, 20 March 1996
New OMRI Analytical Briefs: - "Human Rights Group Urges Europe to Get Tough on Chechnya", by Scott Parrish - "Bosnian Summit: Whistling in the Dark?", by Patrick Moore Available only via the World Wide Web: http://www.omri.cz/Publications/Analytical/Index.html 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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ FEDERATION COUNCIL MEMBERS CALL FOR POSTPONING PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS. Samara Oblast Governor Konstantin Titov, one of the leaders of Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's Our Home Is Russia bloc in the December State Duma campaign, said that if the Duma does not reverse its decision to denounce the Belavezha accords, the Federation Council should postpone the presidential elections, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. Moscow Oblast Governor Anatolii Tyazhlov supported the proposal, asking, "what kind of president does [Communist leader Gennadii] Zyuganov want to be and of what country?" St. Petersburg Mayor Anatolii Sobchak, Voronezh Oblast Governor Aleksandr Kovalev, and Rostov Oblast Governor Vladimir Chub, also backed the move, Russian TV reported. However, only 46 members supported including the idea of postponing the elections on the agenda. President Yeltsin's representative to the Council, Anatolii Sliva, said the president "has nothing to do with" the proposal to postpone the elections, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Robert Orttung ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIA FEDERATION COUNCIL ASKS DUMA TO RECONSIDER USSR VOTE. At President Boris Yeltsin's request, the Federation Council asked the Duma 19 March to review its 15 March decision to restore the Soviet Union and "thoroughly analyze the possible consequences" of such a move, ITAR-TASS reported. The request was supported by 116 members of the upper house, while 10 voted against and three abstained. The written appeal stated that the Duma vote could create difficulties in achieving the "noble goal" of speeding up CIS integration. -- Robert Orttung FURTHER INTEGRATION AMONG CIS STATES? The presidents of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan are scheduled to meet in Moscow on 29 March to sign an agreement on "closer cooperation," Russian and Western media reported. The details of the agreements have not been divulged, although Nezavisimaya gazeta noted on 15 March that the idea for the summit was first raised during Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev's January meeting with President Boris Yeltsin. During his meeting with Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, Yeltsin said other CIS member states would be welcome to sign the accord, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 March. A member of Yeltsin's staff told RFE/RL on 19 March that it will be some kind of "confederation accord"; however, officials in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan have avoided the word "confederation" so far. -- Roger Kangas ZYUGANOV HINTS AT FOREIGN POLICY CHANGES. Communist presidential candidate Gennadii Zyuganov on 19 March suggested that if elected he might abrogate some international treaties Russia has signed, AFP reported. Zyuganov said that his party is "considering breaking international treaties illegally signed." He did not specify what agreements he had in mind, but said that his party is unhappy with the situation in Estonia, where he claimed ethnic Russians cannot "speak in their native language" or own property. -- Scott Parrish CHECHEN LEADERSHIP ACCUSES FEDERAL TROOPS. On 19 March, the pro-Moscow Chechen Supreme Soviet addressed a statement to Russian President Boris Yeltsin accusing Russian federal troops of engaging in looting, pillaging, and reprisals against the civilian population during the recent hostilities in Grozny, Samashki, and Sernovodsk, NTV reported, citing Interfax. The Chechen government asked Yeltsin to take measures to protect the civilian population. Russian troops commander Lt. Gen. Vyacheslav Tikhomirov denied the allegations. Meanwhile, Russian forces continued their offensive against Chechen militants reportedly holed up in the villages of Bamut, Orekhovo, and Samaskhi. In Moscow, Russian presidential press secretary Sergei Medvedev said on 19 March that details of the financing of the presidential peace plan for Chechnya are being finalized, as are arrangements for the redeployment of federal forces and Interior Ministry troops in Chechnya and elsewhere in the North Caucasus in order to enable local authorities "to respond adequately to unexpected developments," Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. -- Liz Fuller SHEVARDNADZE IN MOSCOW. On his first official visit to Moscow as President of Georgia, Eduard Shevardnadze met with Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, but demonstratively canceled a scheduled meeting with State Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev, Russian and Western media reported on 19 March. Shevardnadze blamed his tight schedule for the cancellation, but Seleznev angrily attributed it to the Duma's recent resolution denouncing the Belavezha accords, saying the incident could threaten pending Duma ratification of bilateral agreements. After meeting with Yeltsin, Shevardnadze called for a special CIS summit to discuss the Duma resolution, a move Yeltsin supported. The two leaders also agreed on new measures to implement the 19 January CIS decision to pressure Abkhazia to negotiate with Tbilisi. Chernomyrdin and Shevardnadze earlier signed bilateral agreements covering trade, television broadcasts, and extradition, while the Georgian and Russian defense ministers also signed three military accords. -- Scott Parrish DUMA APPROVES NEW NATIONALITIES POLICY. The State Duma approved a concept of state nationalities policy on 19 March, which is based on the notion of Russian unity and takes into account both the state's interests and the interests of Russia's peoples, ITAR-TASS reported. The concept was put forward by Nationalities Minister Vyacheslav Mikhailov. The Duma recommended that a Nationalities Council be created consisting of state officials and members of public organizations. The council would work on legislation to help safeguard the civil rights of Russian citizens living in other countries of the former Soviet Union. -- Anna Paretskaya RUSSIA MAY ELECT NO PRESIDENT. The most probable outcome of the presidential elections is that no candidate will win, Moskovskie novosti reported, citing experts at the Independent Institute of Social and Ethnic Studies. A poll of more than 2,000 respondents conducted by the institute found that almost none of the candidates that are capable of making it to the second round would receive more votes than those cast in a special procedure that allows Russians to vote "against all candidates." In order to win in the second round, a candidate must receive more votes than the total votes cast against both candidates. Grigorii Yavlinskii is the only candidate who has a chance of winning more votes than the "against all" vote against almost any candidate he might face in the second round of the election. However, if the second round of the election pits President Yeltsin against Yavlinskii, 45% of the respondents said they would reject both candidates, while just 35% would cast votes for Yavlinskii and 20% for Yeltsin. -- Anna Paretskaya PRIMORSK KRAI CHALLENGES RUSSO-CHINESE BORDER AGREEMENT. The Primorsk Krai Duma has requested that the Constitutional Court review the constitutionality of the 1991 Soviet-Chinese border agreement, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 March. Annoyed that the agreement has resulted in the transfer to China of about 1,500 hectares of disputed territory, Primorsk legislators and Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko contend that the 16 May 1991 Russian Federation Supreme Soviet resolution endorsing the section of the treaty that defined the eastern segment of the Russo- Chinese border was unconstitutional. Under article 104 of the pre-1993 RSFSR constitution, they argue, only the Congress of People's Deputies could approve changes to Russia's borders. They also contend that the treaty violated provisions of the June 1990 Russian declaration of sovereignty, requiring that all territorial changes be approved in a national referendum. -- Scott Parrish BASES FOR BLACK SEA FLEET SOUGHT IN RUSSIA. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin has ordered the creation of a government commission to investigate the possibility of establishing additional naval bases in Russian ports on the Black Sea, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 March. The commission, chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Kazakov with Navy chief Admiral Feliks Gromov as deputy chairman, will examine proposals to base warships in Novorossiisk, Tuapse, Sochi, and Gelendzhik. It is to issue its report in the second quarter of this year. -- Doug Clarke CENTRAL BANK HEAD'S HOME ATTACKED. Several gunshots were fired into the apartment of Russian Central Bank Chairman Sergei Dubinin on 18 March, Russian and Western agencies reported. No one was injured in the attack, but it is the first time in recent memory that such a high-ranking federal government official has been threatened. Dubinin's deputy, Konstantin Lubenchenko, speculated that the assault was meant to intimidate his boss, while Izvestiya on 20 March quoted Sergei Yegorov, the president of the Association of Russian Banks, as saying that the Central Bank may have "aroused the displeasure of criminal structures...because it is constantly revoking the licenses of commercial banks that have broken the regulations." According to the association, there were 30 attempts on the lives of bankers in 1994. -- Penny Morvant TIGHT MONEY POLICY WILL CONTINUE. Aleksandr Khandruev, the first deputy chairman of the Central Bank of Russia (TsBR), told the European Banking Forum in Prague on 19 March that the bank will continue its tight monetary policy. He admitted that commercial banks have sprouted "like mushrooms" since 1991, but argued that registration rules are now so tight that it is "practically impossible" to get a license. Only one new bank was registered in the first two months of 1996, and ITAR-TASS reported on 19 March that in future banks will not be allowed to open branches without TsBR approval. Khandruev said that legislation facilitating the closure of insolvent banks is still lacking, forcing the TsBR to rely on such measures as the voluntary merger of ailing banks. Many observers are concerned that the flood of promissory notes being issued to cover firm debts may reignite the inflationary spiral. Khandruev merely noted that supervising these instruments is the responsibility of the Finance Ministry, not the Central Bank. -- Peter Rutland EXPORT RESTRICTIONS TO BE LIFTED. Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Davydov confirmed on 19 March that from 1 July the Russian government will remove all export restrictions, including tariffs, registration, and quality testing, ITAR-TASS reported. The IMF made the liberalization measures a condition for its $10.2 billion Extended Fund Facility, announced last month. On 25-27 March the Council of Directors of the IMF will meet and are expected to formally approve the loan. The government seems to have backed away from its earlier announcement of a general increase in import tariffs. Davydov said some will be lowered, some raised, and the average will stay at 13%. Davydov added that the ruble corridor will be maintained until hard currency reserves reach the level of $20 billion (they are currently $13 billion). -- Peter Rutland TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA AZERBAIJAN'S PARLIAMENT THREATENS TO QUIT CIS. The Azerbaijani Milli Mejlis (parliament) unanimously adopted a statement at its session on 19 March reserving the right to quit the CIS in the event that the Russian State Duma adopts a further decision denouncing the Belavezha accords, Turan reported. Former Azerbaijani President Ayaz Mutalibov committed his country to CIS membership in December 1991, despite a vote against it by the existing parliament. The parliament subsequently voted not to ratify the country's CIS membership; it then reversed that decision in September 1993, following the election of President Heidar Aliev. -- Liz Fuller NIYAZOV IN YEREVAN. Continuing his tour of the Transcaucasus, Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov arrived in Yerevan for talks with his Armenian counterpart, Levon Ter-Petrossyan, on 19 March, Armenian media reported. The two leaders signed several agreements, including a state credit for the supply of Turkmen gas to Armenia, an agreement on the encouragement and mutual protection of investments, and a deal governing the exchange of juridical information, Noyan Tapan reported. The agency noted that Armenia's debt for gas supplied in 1993-94 has been transformed into a five-year credit and Ashgabat will provide 1.7 billion cubic meters of gas to Armenia in 1996 (100 million more than last year). The two presidents denounced the Russian State Duma's recent decision to revoke the 1991 Belavezha accords as a "blatant attempt at ideological revanchism." It was Niyazov's first public response to the Duma's resolution. -- Lowell Bezanis KAZAKHSTAN, RUSSIA PREPARE INTEGRATION AGREEMENTS. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Aleksei Bolshakov held talks with Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev and his counterpart, Nigmatzhan Isingarin, in Almaty on 19 March on preparing a large-scale package of agreements to deepen integration in the defense, socioeconomic, and humanitarian spheres, Russian media reported on 20 March. Both sides signed a protocol on cooperation in the fields of energy, electricity, and railroad transport. Disagreements persist over the lease of the Baikonur cosmodrome and a number of other military sites in Kazakhstan to the Russian Defense Ministry, Radio Rossii reported on 19 March. Isingarin admitted that no agreement has yet been reached between KAZCHROM and the Russian metallurgical complex on the supply of chrome ore, oil, and gas from Kazakhstan to Russia, due to competition between the two countries on the international market. -- 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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