|The person who knows how to laugh at himself will never cease to be amused. - Shirley MacLaine|
No. 68, Part I, 4 April 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 OFFICIALLY REGISTERS AS CANDIDATE. The Central Electoral Commission on 3 April officially registered President Boris Yeltsin as a candidate for the June election. Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov is so far the only other candidate to have turned in the 1 million signatures necessary for registration. Yeltsin filed papers showing that his income for 1995 was 27 million rubles ($5,600), down from 552 million rubles in 1994. Most of the 1994 income came from an honorarium for the publication of his book in Great Britain. Yeltsin kicked off his campaign by leaving for Belgorod where he said he will visit as "both the president and a presidential candidate," ITAR-TASS reported. -- Robert Orttung ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIA DEMOCRATIC RUSSIA LEADERS BACK YELTSIN. Democratic Russia co-chairmen Lev Ponomarev and Gleb Yakunin announced their support for Yeltsin's candidacy on 3 April as individuals and called on their party to do the same, Russian TV reported. Ponomarev favors Yeltsin over Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii because he believes that a "democrat" cannot win in today's Russia and Yeltsin's experience guarantees stability. While the pro-reform camp remains divided, Duma member Petr Romanov withdrew his presidential bid in favor of Zyuganov, NTV reported. -- Robert Orttung MILITARY LEADERSHIP MANEUVERS IN PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN. The political preferences of the Russian top brass can be divided into five factions: pro-Yeltsin; neutral; anti-Grachev; openly oppositional; and pro- Grachev; according to a 40-page document reportedly prepared by military experts for Communist presidential candidate Gennadii Zyuganov and cited in the 31 March-7 April issue of Moskovskie novosti. The pro-Yeltsin faction, led by First Deputy Defense Minister Andrei Kokoshin, is allegedly seeking the electoral support of lower-ranking officers by promising promotions and advancement if the president is re-elected. Many top brass--led by General Mikhail Kolesnikov, chief of the general staff--remain neutral in the hope of retaining their posts no matter who wins the election. A January poll of military personnel cited in the article gave Zyuganov 22% support, followed by Vladimir Zhirinovsky with 18%. Yeltsin lagged with only 4%. -- Scott Parrish DUMA TO CONSIDER LOWERING THE VOTING AGE. Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR) member Aleksei Mitrofanov will soon propose that the Duma lower the voting age from 18 to 16, Ekho Moskvy reported on 3 April. The move is a clear attempt to boost Yeltsin's electoral prospects since he has much broader support among the young, while Communist voters tend to be older. Younger voters, however, have much lower turnout figures. -- Robert Orttung DUMA FAILS TO ADOPT LAW ON HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSIONER. The Duma failed in its seventh attempt to pass a law on the human rights commissioner on 3 April. The law needs 300 votes for adoption, but the body was more than 40 short because the Regions of Russia faction supports naming the commissioner at the same time as the law is adopted, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky pointed out that the commissioner can be named with a 226 majority, which would give the Communists the strong possibility of naming their candidate without the consent of other parties. All members of the Council of Europe are required to have such a law. -- Robert Orttung BOMBING CONTINUES IN CHECHNYA. The village of Shalazhi in southwest Chechnya was subject to aerial bombardment during the night of 2-3 April although village elders had signed a peace pact with Russian commanders on 2 April, Reuters reported on 3 April. A spokesman for the Russian military denied that Russian planes were responsible. The village of Bamut in southern Chechnya was similarly subjected to artillery fire, and other villages in Vedeno Raion were surrounded by Russian troops in direct contravention of President Yeltsin's assurance that hostilities would cease at midnight on 31 March. -- Liz Fuller LEBED ON CHECHNYA. Aleksandr Lebed accused President Yeltsin of "betraying" the soldiers in Chechnya, in an article he published in Nezavisimaya gazeta on 3 April. He said Yeltsin erred in launching the recent wave of attacks, in which "hundreds" of Russian troops were killed, only to sue for peace days later. He said that this stop-and-go policy was reminiscent of the fighting last spring. He urged Yeltsin to push on for the military victory that he considers to be "very close." Lebed said that "doubts can exist only before the beginning of a war...We are fighting not so much for a specific territory but for Russia's national dignity. Russia must announce to the world that it will never again retreat." -- Peter Rutland 550 FEDERAL TROOPS MISSING OR HOSTAGE IN CHECHNYA. An official of the presidential commission for prisoners-or-war, internees, and missing-in- action has reported that 550 federal servicemen are missing or held hostage in Chechnya, Russian media reported on 3 April. The head of the temporary working group searching for these men was said to have told the State Duma the previous day that this number includes 468 soldiers, 70 officers, and 12 warrant officers of the Russian army, the Internal Troops, and the Federal Border Service. Another official revealed that 41 Russian servicemen had been exchanged for Chechen separatists in the past two months. -- Doug Clarke DUMA ENDORSES RUSSO-BELARUSIAN COMMUNITY. The State Duma adopted a resolution "welcoming" the agreement forming the Russo-Belarusian Community, Russian media reported. The resolution, sponsored by the Popular Power and Agrarian factions, called on the other members of the CIS to support Russo-Belarusian integration, ITAR-TASS reported. The agreement is scheduled for a ratification vote in the Duma on 5 April. The Yabloko faction, however, released a statement criticizing the agreement, which it said "created a national structure with an undefined status." Finansovye izvestiya on 4 April questioned the feasibility and economic rationale of integration with Belarus, echoing several other major Russian dailies that describe the agreement as a purely political maneuver. -- Scott Parrish EU, U.S. TO HELP RUSSIA PREVENT SMUGGLING OF NUCLEAR MATERIAL. The EU and the U.S. are planning to help train Russian experts in Western methods of accounting for the nuclear material used to build atomic weapons, Reuters reported on 3 April. The Russian Methodological and Training Center will be established later this year in Obninsk, near Moscow. The European Commission said the center will train hundreds of Russian experts in an effort "to help develop a true safety culture that will be a key element in the program to tighten monitoring and control of nuclear materials in the former Soviet Union." The program is the result of a meeting of nuclear experts from the EU, U.S., and Russia to prepare for the Moscow G-7 summit on nuclear safety later this month. -- Doug Clarke RUSSIAN, POLISH DEFENSE MINISTERS DISCUSS COOPERATION. Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev and his Polish counterpart, Stanislaw Dobrzanski, met in Moscow on 3 April, Russian and Western media reported. Grachev hailed the prospect of improved defense cooperation between the two countries and announced that several joint military exercises would be held this year. He also said that the Polish minister had expressed interest in buying Russian military equipment and spare parts while offering to repair Russian warships in Polish shipyards. The two agreed to form a joint group of experts to draft a formal treaty on military cooperation but remained divided over NATO's eastward expansion. -- Doug Clarke MAFIA BOSSES ARRESTED. Police arrested 25 suspected criminal bosses of Caucasian nationality in a 3 April raid of a Moscow apartment where the group was meeting to allocate business, ITAR-TASS reported on 3 April. They included Georgian Otari Kvaratskhelia, a leading "thief in law" (members of the informal criminal elite). According to an official at the Butyrka prison, due to threats or bribes only one of 14 "thieves in law" arrested over the past two years has actually been taken to court. -- Peter Rutland AID FOR PRISONERS. Leonid Brezhnev's son in law, Yurii Churbanov, has donated 500 mattresses and pillows to Moscow 's Butyrka prison, ITAR- TASS reported on 3 April. Churbanov, a former deputy interior minister, was incarcerated for several years in the 1980s after being convicted of corruption. The governor of Butyrka, Aleksandr Volkov, told a press conference that Moscow prisons owe suppliers 19 billion rubles ($4 million) and are finding it difficult to provide adequate food and medicine. "Unfortunately," commented Volkov, "the so-called `new Russians'" think about these things only when they find themselves behind bars." Moscow intends to build a seventh holding prison for suspects awaiting trial, since the existing jails are overcrowded, with an average floor space of one meter per inmate. -- Peter Rutland LET THEM EAT CAKE. Dismissing rumors of a flour shortage, the director of Mosgorkhlebprodukt, Yevgenii Strelkov, assured Moscow residents that the city's bakeries will make available 700 tons of traditional Easter pastries, ITAR-TASS reported on 3 April. The same day, the Moscow City Duma approved its 1996 budget. The new budget, like that for 1995, will not run a deficit. Revenue and spending are each set at 47 trillion rubles ($9.7 billion), including 7 trillion rubles for housing construction. Mayor Yurii Luzhkov is up for re-election in June, and is expected to secure an easy victory. Most Muscovites seem to regard Luzhkov as an effective city manager. -- Peter Rutland NEW REGULATIONS ON BANKS' RESERVE FUNDS. The Central Bank has reduced the size of commercial banks' compulsory reserves from 20% to 18% of their total deposits starting on 1 May, Segodnya and Kommersant-Daily reported on 3 April. The bank also decided to cut the size of the banks' foreign currency reserves. At present, commercial bank reserves deposited at the Central Bank total 21 trillion rubles ($4.3 billion). The step is designed to alleviate the liquidity squeeze that many banks are currently experiencing. -- Natalia Gurushina FOREIGN TRADE TURNOVER GREW IN JANUARY. Russia's foreign trade turnover totaled $9.2 billion in January, a 10% increase over the same period in 1995, Segodnya reported on 3 April. Exports grew by 7% to $5.9 billion, with a 17% increase in exports to CIS countries ($1.2 billion). Exports to the rest of the world ($4.7 billion) went up by 5%. There were no major changes in the structure of exports, consisting mostly of oil, gas, and metals. The existence of the ruble corridor zone continues to boost Russia's imports, which surged by 14% to $3.3 billion. However, there was a 13% drop in imports from non-CIS countries ($1.9 billion), while imports from the CIS region rose by more than 200% to $1.4 billion. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA JAPAN INCREASES ITS SHARE IN CASPIAN OIL CONSORTIUM. Japan's Itochu Oil Exploration Company on 3 April acquired Pennzoil's 9.8% stake in the consortium formed to exploit three Azerbaijani Caspian oil fields, ITAR- TASS reported. The acquisition follows Itochu's March 1996 purchase of the U.S. oil company McDermott's 2.5% share in the oil consortium. Itochu is the largest Japanese investor in Azerbaijan, and now has the third largest share in the consortium after BP and Amoco, who each have 17% stakes. -- Liz Fuller KAZAKHS FREE TO DROP RUSSIAN ENDINGS IN THEIR LAST NAMES. President Nursultan Nazarbayev has decreed that Kazakhs will be permitted to drop the customary Russian suffixes in their last names and write them in accordance with Kazakh cultural and linguistic traditions, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 April. In place of Russian suffixes such as "yev/ov" or "yeva/ova," Kazakhs are now free to use the Kazakh language equivalents "uli/kizi" for their last names. (For example, Suleymenov or Suleymenova can now be written as Suleymenuli or Suleymenkizi). The changes can be requested upon the issue of new Kazakhstani passports or other personal identification documents. -- Bhavna Dave KAZAKHSTANI FOREIGN MINISTER IN IRAN. Kazakhstani Foreign Minister Kasymzhomart Tokayev, on a three-day visit to Iran, discussed bilateral cooperation in oil and transportation with his Iranian counterpart, Ali Akbar Velayati, Russian and Western media reported on 4 April. Tokayev is in Tehran to prepare for President Nazarbayev's scheduled visit to Iran in May, when he will participate in the inauguration of the new 296 km long Tajan-Sarakhs-Mashad railroad, connecting northern Iran with Turkmenistan. Tokayev said the new "connection-line" between Central Asia and the Middle East will boost regional trade. They also discussed constructing ports on the Caspian Sea to facilitate the transport of Kazakhstan's oil to Iran. -- Bhavna Dave NATO APPROVES PROGRAM FOR KYRGYZSTAN. During his one-day visit to Kyrgyzstan, U.S. Ambassador to NATO Robert Hunter gave President Askar Akayev formal NATO approval of an individual "Partnership for Peace" program for Kyrgyzstan, RFE/RL reported on 3 April. All former Soviet republics, with the exception of Tajikistan, have enrolled in this program, which envisages cooperation on non-military issues such as natural disasters and environmental protection. Akayev and Hunter also discussed a scheduled June seminar in Bishkek that will focus on dealing with emergency situations. -- Bhavna Dave FUROR OVER JOURNALIST'S SLAYING IN DUSHANBE. Reactions to the 28 March murder of Russian Public TV (ORT) journalist Viktor Nikulin continue to register in Tajikistan, Russian sources reported on 2 April. Both Tajik government and opposition officials condemned the killing and deny any involvement. The government has pledged to solve the crime. Fellow journalists, however, are skeptical, as no case of a journalist being killed in Tajikistan has been solved, ITAR-TASS reported on 2 April. As a sign of protest and memorial, all independent newspapers will cease publishing for a week beginning on 5 April. Nikulin's father, Mikhail Nikulin, has reportedly received death threats from the anti-government opposition, a charge the opposition flatly denies. -- 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 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
write to us
with your comments and suggestions.