|To live is so startling, it leaves little time for anything else. - Emily Dickinson|
No. 63, Part I, 28 March 1996
New OMRI Analytical Briefs: - "Crisis in Baltic Banking," by Michael Wyzan 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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ "THIRD FORCE" CANDIDATES ISSUE JOINT STATEMENT ON INTEGRATION. Presidential candidates Aleksandr Lebed, Svyatoslav Fedorov, and Grigorii Yavlinskii issued a joint statement calling for greater economic integration of the countries making up the former Soviet Union within the framework of the CIS, Russian media reported on 27 March. The three politicians criticized attempts by both the Communist Party and President Yeltsin to expand Russian influence among its neighbors as discrediting the idea of integration. Earlier, they had called on the Duma not to denounce the Belavezha accords. The issuing of these joint statements suggests the increasing cohesion of a "third force" in the presidential campaign: Yavlinskii had previously shunned all alliances. -- Robert Orttung ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIA "THIRD FORCE" MAY USE PRIMARIES TO DETERMINE LEADER. The "Third Force" may organize a poll of its supporters in the regions to determine which of its three leaders will be the group's presidential candidate, ITAR- TASS reported on 27 March, citing Konstantin Zatulin, a member of the Congress of Russian Communities Council. According to Zatulin, Lebed is in favor of the idea, Fedorov is leaning toward it, while Yavlinskii is skeptical, fearing falsification of the results. Russia has not previously seen anything resembling a party primary. -- Robert Orttung NTV CHAIRMAN DEFENDS DECISION TO JOIN YELTSIN STAFF. Igor Malashenko, president of the independent television station NTV, said his decision to join President Yeltsin's re-election campaign staff will not affect NTV's reporting, RFE/RL reported on 27 March. Observers had expressed concern that Malashenko's decision might compromise the station's editorial independence (see OMRI Daily Digest, 25 March 1996). Malashenko said his decision is not tied to an attempt to secure advantages for NTV, but he did say that he expects NTV to shortly receive permission to broadcast 24 hours a day. At present, NTV broadcasts about eight hours a day. -- Penny Morvant ZYUGANOV DESCRIBES FOREIGN POLICY GOALS. Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov described his foreign policy goals as "extremely simple: maximum openness both to the West and to the East but with active support and protection for the internal market," ITAR-TASS reported 27 March. He also argued that "everything that is connected with the territory of the former USSR falls within the area of our vital interests." To back this claim, he noted the 25 million Russians living in the non-Russian former Soviet republics who "have been thrown upon the mercy of fate and are not receiving any support." Additionally, Zyuganov said that he would not allow the buying and selling of farmland should he come to power and that Yeltsin's approval of such policies is "killing" state and collective farms. -- Robert Orttung LUZHKOV OFFICIALLY ENTERS MAYORAL RACE. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov has officially announced that he will run for re-election, Russian media reported on 27 March. Luzhkov was endorsed for re-election by a group of supporters on 13 March. Announcing his intention to stand for the 16 June mayoral poll, Luzhkov said that he cannot leave his job without finishing it and "must be in a race." Earlier this week, the Duma Communist Party faction announced that it might put forward a Communist candidate for the Moscow mayoral race. Luzhkov is considered to be the favorite. -- Anna Paretskaya VOTE COUNTING SYSTEM WORKED WELL IN TATARSTAN. Experts from a Moscow research institute who deal with implementing the new computerized vote counting system Vybory (Elections) have concluded that the system performed well in Tatarstan's 24 March presidential election, ITAR-TASS reported on 27 March. Specialists say the system prevents electoral fraud. Moreover, it completes the counting procedure within several hours; the "final" preliminary results of the December Duma elections, which were counted manually, were released eight days after the poll. The Tatarstan election, it should be remembered, had only one candidate. -- Anna Paretskaya PREVENTIVE DIPLOMACY IN CHECHNYA. Representatives of fifteen Chechen political parties and deputies to the parliament of the Confederation of Peoples of the Caucasus (CPC) adopted an appeal to the peoples of the North Caucasus at a conference in Urus-Martan on 27 March to prevent the spread of hostilities in the North Caucasus, Radio Rossii reported. Conference participants also agreed to put forward Chechen parliament speaker Yusup Soslambekov as a candidate for president of the CPC at the upcoming congress of peoples of the North Caucasus in Nalchik. Speaking on local television on 27 March, Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev condemned the individual peace agreements that more than 120 Chechen villages have signed with Russian federal forces, AFP reported on 28 March. Russian troops resumed their artillery bombardment of Bamut on 27 March; fighting was also reported elsewhere in southern Chechnya and along the border with Ingushetiya, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. -- Liz Fuller REPORT ON INTERIOR MINISTRY CASUALTIES IN CHECHNYA. Figures released on 27 March indicate that the Interior Ministry's troops have suffered considerable losses in Chechnya. Russian media quoted Lt. Gen. Anatolii Shkirko, commander of the Internal Troops, as saying that 621 Interior Ministry servicemen had been killed since the military campaign began in December 1994. On 12 March, Radio Mayak quoted the first deputy commander of the troops as saying that 423 internal troops had died and another 157 were missing in action. Shkirko said that more than 23,000 of his men were currently deployed in Chechnya. According to an ITAR- TASS report of 27 March, the establishment strength of the Internal Troops is 272,000. The force has 29 divisions and 15 brigades in nine okrugs. It has been facing severe financial difficulties, and morale is low. -- Doug Clarke and Penny Morvant CIS DEFENSE MINISTERS MEET TO INCREASE COOPERATION. Defense ministers or their representatives from the CIS states, minus Moldova, met in Moscow on 27 March, Russian media reported. NTV reported that the discussion centered around the implementation of the joint CIS air defense system that is to be launched on 1 April and has been signed by all of the CIS states except Azerbaijan and Moldova. Other topics of discussion included peacekeeping force policies and the financing of CIS collective security measures. In addition, ITAR-TASS reported that the defense ministers of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan prepared documents that are to be signed at the 29 March summit of those country's presidents. In an interview following the meeting, Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev emphasized the need to coordinate defense policies, especially in light of the expected NATO expansion. -- Roger Kangas COURT RULES DEFENDANTS CAN CHOOSE OWN LAWYERS. The Constitutional Court ruled on 27 March that defendants charged under the Law on State Secrets are entitled to choose their own lawyers, Russian and Western agencies reported. The ruling followed complaints that the stipulation in the law that defense lawyers in such cases must first obtain security clearance was unconstitutional and gave the prosecution an unfair advantage. One of the complainants was retired Navy Captain Aleksandr Nikitin, arrested by the Federal Security Service in February on charges of treason in connection with his work for the Norwegian environmental organization Bellona. The ruling, which Bellona described as a major victory, came a day after President Yeltsin promised Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland that Nikitin would be allowed to use his own lawyer. -- Penny Morvant FOUNDATION WANTS EURO-DOLLARS FOR KOMSOMOLETS SALVAGE. The European Parliament's Committee on Petitions turned down a petition asking for $12.5 million in EU funding to salvage the nuclear-armed torpedoes in the sunken Russian nuclear submarine Komsomolets. According to a 26 March press release, the Belgium-based Komsomolets Foundation requested the money because the Russians could no longer afford to salvage the vessel. Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev was listed among the foundation's backers. The committee criticized the petition for being concerned solely with the weapons aboard the submarine rather than its nuclear reactor. It did agreed to forward the petition to two other committees in case they wished to pursue the matter. -- Doug Clarke INTERIOR MINISTRY OFFICIAL DEFENDS DEATH PENALTY. First Deputy Interior Minister Vladimir Kolesnikov said on 27 March that 53 people have been executed in Russia in the past three years, the BBC reported, citing Interfax. Kolesnikov said that 423 people were sentenced to death in 1980, 225 in 1986, and 160 in 1994, and that Russia has 69,500 prison inmates convicted on charges of premeditated murder. He argued that abolishing the death penalty--a condition of Russia's recent admission to the Council of Europe--would be counterproductive and that Russia lacks the funds to take such a step. -- Penny Morvant NEW $100 BILLS APPEAR IN MOSCOW. At a joint press conference on 27 March, U.S. Ambassador Thomas Pickering and Central Bank Chairman Sergei Dubinin said that the introduction of new $100 banknotes is proceeding smoothly, ITAR-TASS reported. The first consignment of $60 million worth of the new bills arrived in Moscow on 25 March, AFP reported. The U.S. has spent $1 million on a publicity campaign reassuring Russians that the old bills will still be legal tender. -- Peter Rutland BANKRUPTCY DATA. Petr Mostovoi, head of the Federal Insolvency Administration, told ITAR-TASS on 27 March that Russia has made decisive strides toward financial stabilization. He also claimed that the bankruptcy law is starting to work effectively. Ten firms declared themselves insolvent in 1993, followed by 350 in 1994, and 1,103 in 1995. Following the recommendations of Mostovoi's agency, courts declared 459 firms bankrupt over the past year. However, this is only a small fraction of Russia's more than 40,000 firms; virtually no large- sized enterprises have been declared bankrupt. -- Peter Rutland MAJOR NEW OIL VENTURE BETWEEN SHELL AND EVIKHON. The Russian oil company Evikhon and Royal Dutch/Shell's Russian subsidiary have agreed to set up a joint venture to exploit the Salym oil fields, ITAR-TASS reported on 27 March. The Salym fields in Tyumen Oblast have recoverable oil reserves of 139 million metric tons, and are expected to yield 6 million metric tons annually by the year 2003. Over the next 25 years, up to $11 billion could be invested in the project. Evikhon was created to develop the Salym fields in 1992: since then Evikhon and Shell have already spent $100 million on exploratory work in Salym. Shell officials said that the new venture's strategy in Russia will depend on the outcome of the presidential election in June. -- Natalia Gurushina RUSSIA TO SUPPLY NUCLEAR REACTORS TO CHINA. The Russian government will provide China with a 15-year $2 billion loan at 4% interest to supply Russian reactors to a new nuclear power station in northeast China, Reuters reported on 27 March. The cost of the station, whose construction will begin in 1998, is $4 billion. The agreement to buy Russian reactors was signed during Prime Minister Li Peng's visit to Moscow in June 1995. Chinese officials said that they chose Russian reactors because they were 15-20% cheaper than Western ones. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA PUBLICATION OF ARMENIAN NEWSPAPER SUSPENDED. A Yerevan court has banned the daily newspaper Lragir for three months for the serialized publication of an article advocating the annexation by Armenia of predominantly Armenian-populated regions of southern Georgia, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 20 March. The paper's editor had ignored a warning from the Armenian Justice Ministry not to continue publishing the article after its first installment. -- Liz Fuller PAKISTANI OFFICIALS ON TURKMEN GAS. According to unnamed officials in Pakistan's Petroleum and Natural Resources Ministry, the U.S. firm UNOCAL has submitted a pipeline project to move natural gas from Turkmenistan's Dauletabad field to Pakistan via parts of Afghanistan that are now held by the Taliban rebel movement, AFP reported on 28 March. The cost of the 1,271 km-long pipeline project is estimated at $3 billion. The Argentinean firm Bridas proposed a similar plan in the past; last summer, the firm's president secured numerous promises from Ashgabat, Islamabad, Kabul, and several combatants involved in the Afghan civil war, only to see the deal unravel following renewed fighting in Afghanistan. -- Lowell Bezanis UNICEF CALLS FOR AID TO TAJIKISTAN. The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) launched a fundraising campaign for Tajikistan on 27 March with the aim of collecting $5.6 million, Reuters and AFP reported. Speaking from the Kazakhstani capital Almaty, UNICEF's Executive Director Carol Bellamy said Tajikistan is coping "with the double burden of outright civil war as well as economic restructuring." The money would go for medical supplies, education, and clean water programs for women and children. UNICEF reports show that infant mortality in Tajikistan is running at more than 60 per 1,000 and that as many as 2 million children suffer from respiratory and childhood diseases. -- Bruce Pannier UZBEK PRESIDENT IN VIETNAM. Uzbek President Islam Karimov arrived in Vietnam on 28 March to meet with President Le Duc Anh, Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet, and Communist Party Secretary-General Do Muoi, ITAR-TASS reported. The two sides signed several agreements on bilateral trade, investment protection, and double taxation. Karimov is the first CIS president to visit Vietnam since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. -- Roger Kangas [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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