|Comedy is an escape, not from truth but from despair; a narrow escape into faith. - Christopher Fry|
No. 69, Part I, 5 April 1996
New OMRI Analytical Briefs: - "Shevardnadze's Ankara Visit Highlights Pipeline Problems," by Lowell Bezanis and Liz Fuller Available on the World Wide Web: http://www.omri.cz/Publications/Analytical/Index.html This is Part I of the Open Media Research Institute's Daily Digest. Part I is a compilation of news concerning Russia, Transcaucasia and Central Asia. Part II, covering Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe, is distributed simultaneously as a second document. Back issues of the Daily Digest, and other information about OMRI, are available through OMRI's WWW pages: http://www.omri.cz/Index.html ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^TODAY'S TOP STORY^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ CONVENTIONAL ARMS TALKS IN VIENNA COLLAPSE. Russian objections have torpedoed multilateral discussions in Vienna on creating a new international regime to control worldwide exports of arms and weapons technologies, Western agencies reported on 4 April. Russia, wary of interference in its arms trade, rejected a U.S. proposal that members of the new regime, called the Wassenaar agreement (see OMRI Daily Digest, 20 December 1995), give early notification of arms sales. While U.S. officials blamed Russia for the deadlock, it should be noted that France also had objections to the U.S. initiative. It is also ironic that the U.S. emerged from the talks looking like an advocate of arms control, since it exported about $29 billion worth of arms in 1995--about 10 times more than Russia. -- Scott Parrish ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIA YELTSIN STUMPS IN COMMUNIST STRONGHOLD. President Boris Yeltsin arrived in Belgorod on 4 April to launch his re-election campaign, with promises of financial support for local farms and factories, Russian TV reported. Yeltsin said that the "most complicated and difficult" period of reform is over and that he would now focus on social programs and raising the level of production, ITAR-TASS reported. The Communist Party won 32% in the December Duma election's party-list voting and the city elected former USSR Prime Minister Nikolai Ryzhkov. Yeltsin said that Ryzhkov and his Duma colleague Valentin Varennikov, a 1991 coup plotter, should be imprisoned, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. -- Robert Orttung BABURIN BACKS ZYUGANOV. Nationalist Sergei Baburin, after considerable vacillation, announced that his Russian All-People's Union will back Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov in the June presidential election, ITAR-TASS reported. More than 70 organizations have now signed on to Zyuganov's "popular-patriotic bloc." In the Duma campaign, Baburin formed an alliance with Ryzhkov in the Power to the People bloc and faced a Communist opponent in his successful bid to win a seat in Omsk. Meanwhile, former USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev turned in 1.4 million signatures to the Central Electoral Commission to register as a presidential candidate, Radio Rossii reported. -- Robert Orttung DUMA PREPARES LAW ON THE TRANSITION OF POWER. The Duma is working on a law that will regulate the two months between the presidential election and the time when the new president takes his oath of office, Izvestiya reported on 5 April. The sharpest dispute is over whether the president should renounce his party membership. The Communists and Vladimir Zhirinovsky are strongly against such a requirement. Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev refused to renounce his Communist Party membership after gaining his new position. -- Robert Orttung SHOTS FIRED NEAR YELTSIN HOME. An unidentified gunman fired three shots on 3 April in the vicinity of President Yeltsin's home in the Moscow suburb of Krylatskoe, Russian and Western media reported the next day. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov also live in the same six-story apartment bloc alongside Yeltsin. On 4 April, ITAR-TASS reported that St. Petersburg has the highest crime rate in Russia, with 77 businessmen and more than 50 criminal gang members killed last year. -- Peter Rutland DUMA COMMISSION BLASTS PRIVATIZATION. The Audit Chamber set up last October by the Duma has prepared a report condemning the privatization program launched in 1992, Russian and Western media reported on 4 April. Veniamin Sokolov, the head of the commission, said on Russian Public TV (ORT) that the privatization was based on a succession of unclear laws, decrees, and regulations--each of which contradicted those that went before. He said it was a violation of national interests and a vehicle for extensive corruption, and called for the reversal of some of the privatizations. Sokolov passed on to the procurator-general evidence of alleged wrongdoing by Petr Mostovoi, the head of the Federal Insolvency Administration, and Alfred Kokh, deputy head of the State Privatization Committee (GKI), NTV reported. The loan/share auctions conducted last November-December look particularly vulnerable to reversal. -- Peter Rutland TATAR PRESIDENT TO MEDIATE WITH DUDAEV? Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev is prepared to meet with an emissary of Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev to discuss the implementation of President Yeltsin's Chechen peace proposals, NTV reported after 3-4 April meetings in Kazan between Shaimiev and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. On 4 April, Yeltsin signed a decree on the composition of the government commission that will monitor the implementation of his peace plan; it includes Shaimiev, the chairmen of both chambers of the Russian parliament, Security Council Secretary Oleg Lobov, and the president of Kabardino- Balkariya. Meanwhile, a Russian SU25 military aircraft was shot down over the village of Goiskoe in southern Chechnya on 4 April by what Russian military sources identified as a U.S. made Stinger missile, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. -- Liz Fuller RUSSIA BLASTS UN REPORT ON CHECHNYA. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Grigorii Karasin criticized the recent UN report on human rights in Chechnya (see OMRI Daily Digest, 3 April 1995) as "incorrect," Russian and Western agencies reported on 4 April. The report, citing non- governmental human rights agencies, focuses on the excessive use of force by federal troops in the breakaway republic. AFP quoted Karasin as complaining that the report failed to note that separatist fighters "resorted to outright terror" and "violated the peace accords," a reference to the failed 30 July military agreement. Karasin also complained that the report ignored what he termed an "intensive dialogue on the issue between Russia and the UN Commissioner for Human Rights." -- Scott Parrish BORDER DEMARCATION COMMISSION MEMBER RESIGNS. Maj. Gen. Valerii Rozov, chairman of the Russo-Chinese border demarcation commission for Primorsk Krai, resigned on 4 April, saying he could not supervise the transfer of "strategically important Russian lands" to China, ITAR-TASS reported. The commission is demarcating disputed segments of the border along the Tuman River under a May 1991 Soviet-Chinese agreement which calls for the transfer of about 1,500 hectares of disputed territory to China. Rozov said Russia had an "indisputable right" to the territory, where the location of nine border markers has yet to be determined, adding that its transfer to China would undermine Russia's position in the Asian-Pacific region. The resignation is embarrassing for Russia, as Yeltsin is scheduled to visit China on 24 April. -- Scott Parrish CIS MEETINGS IN DUSHANBE, MOSCOW. The heads of the CIS security services met in Dushanbe on 4 April for discussion that focused on cooperation in fighting drugs and arms smuggling and coordinating information-gathering procedures along the lines of Interpol, Russian media reported. The meeting was chaired by Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) Director General Mikhail Barsukov, who also met privately with Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov, RFE/RL reported on 3 April. No details of their discussion were available. In other CIS news, foreign economic ministers of the member states met in Moscow on 4-5 April to discuss the parameters of a free trade zone, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Roger Kangas SUPREME COURT OVERTURNS YELTSIN DECREE ON NUCLEAR WASTE DISPOSAL . . . The Supreme Court has settled the dispute between the Nuclear Energy Ministry and Greenpeace by overturning the presidential decree that allows nuclear waste to be imported into Russia, Ekho Moskvy reported on 4 April. The construction of the nuclear waste disposal plant in Krasnoyarsk (Siberia) is not finished yet, and the ministry needs to find an additional $4 billion to do so. The ministry hoped to get credits in countries that intended to use the plant, allowing them to store their nuclear waste in Russia in the meantime. The Supreme Court ruled that it would be possible to import nuclear fuel to Russia if a relevant international agreement is signed. -- Natalia Gurushina . . . WHILE CONSTITUTIONAL COURT OVERRULES APARTMENT TAX. The Constitutional Court overruled the Moscow authorities' decision to impose special taxes on apartment owners in the capital, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 April. The authorities levied a lump-sum tax of 500 times the minimum wage on any person buying a flat in Moscow who did not already have a resident permit for the city. The court also ruled unconstitutional the introduction by the Moscow region authorities of a 'license fee for the right to migrate to the Moscow region.' -- Natalia Gurushina DUBININ ON THE RUBLE, UNION WITH BELARUS. Central Bank Chairman Sergei Dubinin told ITAR-TASS in Paris on 5 April that the ruble will soon become convertible for current operations, as the remaining restrictions on currency transfers will be lifted. He also said that the new relationship with Belarus "must not result in a weakening of the Russian ruble." He expects the exchange rates of the Belarusian ruble and the Russian ruble to be tied, in a manner similar to the European Monetary System. Russia will not shore up the Belarusian currency: Minsk must pursue the policies necessary to maintain the value of the Belarusian ruble. Meanwhile, in Moscow it was announced that inflation in March is just 2.8%--the same as in February. On 4 April, the ruble was trading at 4,873 to the U.S. dollar. -- Peter Rutland PROPOSAL TO TIGHTEN CONTROL OF BANK ACCOUNTS. By the end of March, tax arrears to the federal budget had risen to 41 trillion rubles ($8.4 billion), Segodnya reported on 4 April. The problem is partly that firms hide their revenues through barter and cash transactions, and partly that tax service efforts to seize funds in firms' bank accounts are not effective. Two new draft presidential decrees have been prepared that will force firms to have a single bank account for all current operations. However, the Central Bank is objecting, on the grounds that a court might find this a violation of current banking legislation. -- Peter Rutland TELECOMMUNICATIONS PROJECTS ON HOLD. It looks increasingly unlikely that the ambitious 50/50 project to modernize the Russian telephone network will actually move forward. France Telecom, which together with U.S. West and Deutsche Telecom launched the project in October 1994, is now pursuing the more modest task of installing new card phones in Moscow, ITAR-TASS and AFP reported on 4 April. The company has already installed 300 new phones in Moscow hotels and metro stations, one of which was ceremonially used by Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov to call his Paris counterpart. Meanwhile, the Italian firm STET, which in December 1995 backed out of its contract to buy a 25% stake in Svyazinvest, reiterated its willingness to renew negotiations about the acquisition. -- Natalia Gurushina ROADS OFF LIMITS. As usual, some 43,000 km of main roads and 477,000 km of local roads will be barred to trucks until 15 May, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 April. The Transport Ministry imposes the restrictions during the spring thaw to keep the roads in usable condition. -- Peter Rutland TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN COMMUNISTS NOMINATE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE. A recent plenum of the Central Committee of the Armenian Communist Party nominated the party's senior secretary, Sergei Badalyan, as its candidate for the 21 September presidential election, Pravda reported on 4 April. A former first secretary of the Yerevan Gorkom, Badalyan was elected first secretary of the party when it split following the failed coup of August 1991. On 3 April, the Armenian parliament adopted a law on the presidential election, Noyan Tapan reported the same day. -- Liz Fuller KAZAKHSTAN'S PARLIAMENT PASSES A LAW ON PUBLIC ORGANIZATIONS. Kazakhstan's parliament passed a law defining the rights and permitted activities of public organizations, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 April. Details of are not yet available. Omirbek Baigeldiyev, the chairman of the Senate stated that the new law will regulate relations between public organizations and government organs and will serve as a basis for further legislation. The parliament is expected to pass a law regulating the activities of political parties and trade unions. Kazakhstan's existing laws that curtail the freedoms of organizations have been criticized by the opposition and independent media. -- Bhavna Dave KAZAKHSTANI COURT FINES SUPPORTERS OF DUMA BELAVEZHA DENUNCIATION. A number of people in Kazakhstan who staged rallies on 16-17 March in support of the Russian State Duma's resolution denouncing the Belavezha accords have been fined for organizing "unsanctioned meetings," ITAR- TASS reported on 4 April. Among those fined were Boris Godunov, chairman of the Almaty City Committee on human rights, and Petr Khalov, the chairman of the Almaty Workers' Movement. Kazakhstan's procurator- general said that calls for a restoration of the USSR contravene the republic's constitution, and instructed all oblast procurators to take legal action against such activities. As a follow up, the oblast justice administration of East Kazakhstan issued an order banning the activities of local branches of the groups Russkaya obshchina, Slavic Culture, and Lad, organizations which claim to promote the interests of the local Russian population. The Pavlodar Oblast authorities are considering the dissolution of the local Communist Party organization. -- Bhavna Dave U.S. AMBASSADOR CALLS FOR CLOSER CENTRAL ASIAN TIES WITH NATO. U.S. Ambassador to NATO Robert Hunter said in Almaty on 4 April that NATO wants to step up its cooperation with the former Soviet Republics in Central Asia. Reuters quoted him as saying it is in Western interests to "reach out to the countries in the region." He noted that while Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan had joined the Partnership for Peace program, none had yet sent a full-time military representative to the partnership coordination cell in Mons, Belgium. He said that he expects Kazakhstan to be the first to do so. -- Doug Clarke [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Victor Gomez ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. ISSN 1211-1570 ------------------------------------------------------------------------ SUBSCRIBING/UNSUBSCRIBING 1) Compose a message to LISTSERV@UBVM.CC.BUFFALO.EDU 2) To subscribe, write: SUBSCRIBE OMRI-L FirstName LastName (include your own name) To unsubscribe, write: UNSUBSCRIBE OMRI-L 3) Send the message REPRINT POLICY To receive a copy of OMRI's reprint policy, contact OMRIPUB@OMRI.CZ or see the Web page at http://www.omri.cz/Publications/Digests/DigestReprint.html OTHER OMRI PUBLICATIONS TRANSITION OMRI publishes the biweekly journal TRANSITION, which contains expanded analysis of many of the topics in the Daily Digest. 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