|The burnt child shuns the fire until the next day. - Mark Twain|
No. 58, Part I, 21 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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ YELTSIN ASKS DUMA TO REAFFIRM RUSSIA'S LEGAL STATUS. In response to the State Duma's earlier decision to renounce the Belavezha accords, President Boris Yeltsin asked the Duma to approve a draft law that would confirm the validity of Russia's laws and international obligations, including the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Russian and Western media reported on March 20. The Duma agreed to hold a second debate on the Belavezha accords during its 22 March session following a request by the Federation Council. Deputies rejected a sarcastic proposal put forward by Russia's Democratic Choice Deputy Sergei Yushenkov that the Duma dissolve itself and immediately call a session of the USSR Congress of People's Deputies, the Soviet-era legislature. -- Laura Belin ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIA YELTSIN PLANS CAMPAIGN STRATEGY. President Yeltsin announced that he will lead a council to coordinate activities for his own re-election campaign, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 March. A number of organizations have been created to help run Yeltsin's campaign, including a "presidential campaign headquarters" headed by First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets and a "movement of public support" for Yeltsin headed by former Chief of Staff Sergei Filatov, but the precise duties of these organizations have never been defined. ITAR-TASS speculated that presidential adviser Viktor Ilyushin is behind attempts to reorganize Yeltsin's campaign apparatus. Meanwhile, VCIOM director Yurii Levada announced that his center's most recent poll shows Yeltsin further narrowing Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov's lead; Zyuganov now beats Yeltsin in a head to head contest by just 37% to 29%. -- Laura Belin YABLOKO MOTION TO REMOVE SELEZNEV FAILS. Yabloko Deputy Yelena Mizulina put forward a motion to remove Gennadii Seleznev from the post of Duma speaker, but only 88 deputies voted to put the question on the Duma's agenda, with 207 voting against, Russian media reported on 20 March. Mizulina claimed that Seleznev changed the 15 March resolution denouncing the Belavezha accords before signing it, in violation of Duma procedures. In January, some Russian observers blamed Yabloko deputies for allowing Seleznev to be elected speaker; at that time, Yabloko backed its own candidate Vladimir Lukin for the post rather than Ivan Rybkin, Seleznev's closest rival in the voting. -- Laura Belin DUMA SAYS YELTSIN REJECTION OF LAWS UNCONSTITUTIONAL. The Duma passed a resolution charging that Yeltsin's practice of sometimes returning laws passed by the Duma "without consideration" violates Article 107 of the constitution, which stipulates that the president must either sign laws sent to him by parliament or veto them, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 March. Yeltsin occasionally sends bills back to parliament, citing legal flaws within the documents or procedural irregularities in how they were passed. -- Laura Belin CHERNOMYRDIN: POWER SHARING MAY STOP IF COMMUNISTS WIN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS. After signing a power sharing treaty with the Komi Republic, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin warned that the signing of such treaties may be brought to a halt if the Communists win the June presidential election, since they support the nationalization of property and strong federal control over the regions, Russian media reported on 20 March. Komi became the 12th federation subject to sign an agreement on power sharing with the federal government. Chernomyrdin and Komi Head Yurii Spiridonov signed a series of agreements relating to Komi foreign trade, international relations, agriculture, energy, budget, and property relations between the republic and Moscow. -- Anna Paretskaya ST. PETERSBURG MAYORAL ELECTIONS TO BE HELD IN MAY. The St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly has approved a presidential decree setting 19 May as the date for the city's mayoral elections by a vote of 27-6, ITAR- TASS reported on 20 March. Last week, the legislature failed to approve the decree due to a walkout staged by the Communist deputies (see OMRI Daily Digest, 14 March 1996). This time, the Communist deputies also protested the early date of the mayoral poll, and the Yabloko assembly faction is preparing to appeal the election date change in court. The leaders of both factions are among the mayoral candidates and are unhappy that their campaign time has been shortened. -- Anna Paretskaya NATO AND RUSSIA SIGN COOPERATION AGREEMENT. NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana and Russian Minister of Emergency Situations Sergei Shoigu on 20 March signed an agreement on cooperation in dealing with civil emergencies, Russian and Western agencies reported. Solana, on an official visit to Moscow, also met with Defense Minister Pavel Grachev. Grachev announced an agreement "in principle" on establishing a permanent Russian mission at NATO headquarters, and added that "we will find closer forms of cooperation" with the alliance. However, the Russian minister admitted that the two sides still have "different approaches" to the possible eastward enlargement of the alliance. Solana reaffirmed that NATO's decision to expand "had been taken long ago," and would not be affected by either the recent Duma resolution denouncing the Belavezha accords, or the upcoming Russian presidential polls. -- Scott Parrish RUSSIAN-UKRAINIAN COOPERATION COMMISSION MEETS. Ukrainian Prime Minister Yevhen Marchuk and his Russian counterpart, Viktor Chernomyrdin, co- chaired the first session of the recently-formed bilateral commission in Moscow on 20 March, Russian agencies reported. The session dealt with the draft of the Russian-Ukrainian friendship treaty, the division of the Black Sea Fleet, bilateral economic ties, and other agreements due to be signed during President Yeltsin's scheduled April visit to Kyiv. Afterwards, both leaders said the long-awaited friendship treaty is "practically ready" for signature. On the same day, Vice-Admiral Viktor Kravchenko, newly appointed commander of the Black Sea Fleet, met in Kyiv with the commander of the Ukrainian Navy, Vice-Admiral Volodymyr Bezkorovainy, to discuss the division of the fleet and associated infrastructure, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Scott Parrish CIA CHIEF WARNS OF POOR NUCLEAR SECURITY IN RUSSIA. CIA Director John Deutch recently told a Senate committee that security at Russian nuclear facilities is deteriorating, the Voice of America reported on 20 March. He was quoted as testifying that these conditions pose a "serious threat" for the diversion of nuclear technology and fissile materials to countries seeking to develop nuclear arms. He said that while most reports of nuclear materials being smuggled out of Russia have been bogus, some have involved small quantities of weapons-grade nuclear material. He urged continued support for the programs to provide financial and technical assistance to the Russians in this area and warned that a significant diversion of weapons material would create a "crisis of enormous proportions." -- Doug Clarke JAPANESE FOREIGN MINISTER IN MOSCOW. Yukihiko Ikeda, the first Japanese Foreign Minister to visit Moscow in two years, met with his Russian counterpart, Yevgenii Primakov, and President Yeltsin on 20 March, Russian and Western agencies reported. Ikeda gave Yeltsin a personal message from Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto, expressing support for the reform policies of the Russian president. Yeltsin and Ikeda reaffirmed their commitment to the 1993 Tokyo Declaration, which calls for a speedy resolution of the territorial dispute over the four southernmost Kuril islands. Primakov later pledged continued demilitarization of the islands, saying only 3,500 Russian troops are stationed there, a 50% reduction since 1992. Ikeda also co-chaired the first session of a new Russo-Japanese trade commission, at which First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets said agreement had been reached on the use of a $500 million loan that Tokyo had granted Moscow earlier this year. -- Scott Parrish GREEK FOREIGN MINISTER IN MOSCOW. Greek Foreign Minister Theodhoros Pangalos met with his Russian counterpart, Yevgenii Primakov, and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin during his 18-20 March official visit to Moscow, Russian agencies reported. Among other issues, Pangalos's discussions focused on the proposed construction of a pipeline for the export of Russian and Caspian oil to international markets via Greece and Bulgaria. The project has hit some snags recently because of a Greek-Bulgarian disputes over the terms of its construction. ITAR-TASS also pointedly noted that Pangalos had expressed reserve about the possible eastward expansion of NATO, saying it would "directly or indirectly have an anti-Russian character." As a NATO member, Greece's approval would be required for the admission of new members. -- Scott Parrish LEADING ARMS DESIGNER MURDERED. Leading weapons designer Valentin Smirnov was shot dead in the entrance hall of his apartment block in Yekaterinburg on 20 March, ITAR-TASS reported. Smirnov, one of the designers of the S-300 air defense missile system, headed the Novator military enterprise in the city. A number of other prominent figures in the military-industrial complex have been murdered over the past 18 months, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. -- Penny Morvant DUMA RAISES MINIMUM WAGE, PENSION. The Duma voted on 20 March to raise the minimum wage by 20% to 75,900 rubles ($16) a month as of 1 April, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. The bill was unanimously approved in the second and third readings. Ekho Moskvy noted that the deputies had originally sought to raise the minimum wage as of 1 March and that the new version constitutes a compromise measure. Earlier, the Duma also overcame the Federation Council veto on a bill raising the minimum pension by 20% as of 1 March--a decision that provoked a storm of protest in the government. Presidential economics adviser Aleksandr Livshits said it was unaffordable and would result in further delays in pension payments. -- Penny Morvant FOREIGN INVESTMENT REACHES $7.9 BILLION. Foreign investment in Russia in 1995 was $2.8 billion, a 180% increase over 1994, Western agencies reported on 19 March, citing the Economics Ministry. The total foreign capital invested in Russia in 1991-1995 now stays at $7.9 billion. In 1995, direct investment accounted for $1.9 billion, portfolio investment for $30 million, and foreign loans for $890 million. Moscow attracted the largest proportion of investment--47%. Oil-producing regions Tatarstan and Tyumen (Siberia) got 5.7% and 3.6% of capital, respectively. U.S. companies provided 29% of investment. They were followed by Swiss (15%) and German(10%) firms. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA MORE CIS TELEGRAMS TO YELTSIN CONDEMNING DUMA VOTE. The leaders of eight CIS states have sent official notices to President Boris Yeltsin expressing their opposition to the Russian State Duma's vote denouncing the Belavezha accords, Russian and Western media reported. Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossyan called on Yeltsin to "take the necessary protective measures" to preserve the CIS, and Uzbek President Islam Karimov stated that the decision is a call to revive a "totalitarian system." Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev and Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev underscored the damage that this action could have on the "current integration" taking place among some CIS states, while Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev focused on the negative effect the vote will have on "democratic reforms." No official telegrams have been sent by Turkmenistan, Belarus, and Tajikistan, although Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov has publicly denounced the Duma's decision in recent interviews. -- Roger Kangas NIYAZOV IN GEORGIA. On the last leg of his three-country tour of the Caucasus, Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov arrived in Tbilisi on 19 March for talks with his Georgian counterpart, Eduard Shevardnadze, Western agencies reported. The two leaders reached an agreement the same day to reschedule Georgia's roughly $500 million debt for natural gas over three years, Western agencies reported. The two leaders also issued a joint statement against the Russian State Duma's 15 March decision to revoke the 1991 Belavezha accords, describing it as a "dangerous attempt to restore an anti-democratic totalitarian regime." -- Lowell Bezanis INDIAN FOREIGN MINISTER CONCLUDES VISIT TO UZBEKISTAN. Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Kumar Mukerjee wrapped up his three-day official visit to Tashkent on 21 March, during which he signed bilateral accords on trade and technical and cultural exchanges with his Uzbek counterpart, Abdulaziz Kamilov, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 March. Mukerjee stressed the "important strategic role" that Uzbekistan plays in Central Asia. -- Roger Kangas KAZAKHSTAN REJECTS AMNESTY FIGURES ON EXECUTIONS. Kazakhstan has rejected an Amnesty International report that there were 101 executions in the country in 1995, Reuters reported on 21 March (see OMRI Daily Digest, 11 March 1996). Mikhail Baranov, head of President Nursultan Nazarbayev's clemency department, said that only 63 people were executed last year, adding that Amnesty had confused the total number of those who were sentenced with the number of actual executions. Baranov said that 2,447 murders were committed in 1995, and that the sharp rise in violent crime justified the death penalty. -- 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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