|To appreciate nonsense requires a serious interest in life. - Gelett Burgess|
No. 72, Part I, 11 April 1996
New OMRI Analytical Briefs: - "Akayev "Rotates" Kyrgyzstan's Media Heads," by Lowell Bezanis - "A Serbian Opposition Party in Trouble?," by Sharon Fisher - "Albania's Rocky Road to Europe," by Fabian Schmidt - "Britain Recognizes Rump Yugoslavia," by Stan Markotich - "Russia Fails to Budge Poland on NATO Expansion," by Scott Parrish - "Belarusian Opposition Leaders in Exile," by Ustina Markus 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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ YELTSIN TO REQUEST RELOCATION OF WESTERN NUKES. Addressing the Security Council in preparation for the 19-20 April G-7 nuclear safety summit, President Yeltsin pledged that all remaining former Soviet strategic nuclear warheads located in Ukraine and Belarus would be removed to Russia by the end of 1996, Russian and Western agencies reported on 10 April. He called on the other nuclear powers to follow suit and base nuclear weapons only on their own territory. Russian TV reported that Yeltsin would insist such a pledge be included in the final summit communique. If accepted, it would require the U.S. to remove its tactical nuclear weapons currently stationed in NATO member-states, and would preclude the deployment of such weapons to Eastern European states if they join NATO. -- Scott Parrish ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIA DUMA STANDS FIRM ON USSR VOTE. The Duma rejected by a vote of 186 to 65 President Yeltsin's proposal that it adopt a resolution stating that the 15 March vote to restore the Soviet Union does not challenge the legitimacy of Russia's sovereignty or annul its international commitments, ITAR-TASS reported 10 April. However, the lower house then adopted its own statement saying essentially the same thing, adding that the vote reflected only the "political position" of the deputies and has no legal effect. The Duma also expressed its disappointment at the reaction of the leaders of Georgia, Uzbekistan, Armenia, and Moldova, who saw the 15 March vote as a "threat" from Russia. -- Robert Orttung SUPREME COURT OVERTURNS TsIK's REFUSAL TO REGISTER BRYNTSALOV. The Supreme Court ordered the Central Electoral Commission (TsIK) to register Duma member Vladimir Bryntsalov, one of Russia's richest individuals and the owner of several pharmaceutical factories, as a presidential candidate on 10 April, NTV reported. TsIK had rejected 450,000 of the 1.35 million nomination signatures that Bryntsalov turned in, but the court found 170,000 of them valid, meaning that Bryntsalov had crossed the 1 million signature threshold required to register as a candidate. During the Duma elections, the court overturned several TsIK decisions to deny registration to political parties, bringing the number of contestants to 43. -- Robert Orttung COMMUNISTS PLAN TO ABOLISH PRESIDENCY IN 2-3 YEARS. Communist leader Gennadi Zyuganov will abolish the Russian presidency in 2-3 years if he is elected in June, Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev told Izvestiya on 11 April. Seleznev favors a parliamentary system for Russia because "a presidency always begets a tug-of-war between the branches of power." -- Robert Orttung COMMUNISTS LOSE IN MOSCOW OBLAST LOCAL ELECTIONS. Communists lost 31 out of 34 races in Moscow Oblast's 31 March local elections, the pro- presidential Rossiiskie vesti reported on 11 April. Most of the victorious candidates were local economic managers. The paper argues that even though the Communists did well in the Duma elections, voters are now interested in competent professions and "stability," rather than leftist ideology. -- Robert Orttung COMMISSION ON CHECHNYA CONVENES. Boris Yeltsin on 10 April attended the second session of the government commission created to monitor implementation of his Chechen peace proposals, Russian media reported. Yeltsin submitted to the meeting the names of proposed intermediaries between the Russian leadership and Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev, but these were not made public. St. Petersburg Mayor Anatolii Sobchak proposed his city as the venue for peace talks, NTV reported. In Chechnya, fighting reportedly died down except in the village of Goiskoe, south of Grozny; most of Dudaev's forces were said to have regrouped near the border with Dagestan. On 9 April, Dudaev's chief of staff, Aslan Maskhadov, escaped injury when a bomb exploded in a cemetery where he was due to speak, killing 10 people, according to Radio Rossii. -- Liz Fuller RUSSO-CHINESE BORDER DEMARCATION SUSPENDED? Primorsk Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko announced on 11 April that President Yeltsin had suspended the demarcation of a disputed stretch of the Russo-Chinese border, Reuters reported. Nazdratenko has long opposed the 1991 border agreement that would transfer to China of 1,500 hectares of disputed territory along the Tuman River in southern Primorsk Krai, a process that is scheduled to move forward once the demarcation is completed. Nazdratenko has launched an appeal against the agreement in the Constitutional Court. The Primorsk governor said Yeltsin had reconsidered the "losses" that would result from transferring the disputed territory to China and had suspended further demarcation work pending discussions in Beijing during his scheduled 24-26 April official visit to China. Moscow has not yet officially confirmed Nazdratenko's announcement. -- Scott Parrish RUSSIA MAY PROPOSE JOINING NATO POLITICAL STRUCTURES. Russia may soon propose to NATO that it be granted membership in the alliance's political but not military structures, an article in Nezavisimaya gazeta suggested on 10 April. The article, co-authored by Sergei Kortunov, a foreign policy specialist who works in the Yeltsin administration, argued that NATO's response to such a proposal would demonstrate whether the alliance is "honest" when it claims that its enlargement is not directed against Russia. Adding Russia to the alliance's political structure would also begin the process of transforming NATO into a post- Cold War security structure, the article contended. -- Scott Parrish BLACK SEA FLEET UPDATE. Commander of the Black Sea Fleet Viktor Kravchenko has said that the Russian part of the fleet will consist of two military marine formations, Krasnaya zvezda reported on 9 April. The units will be based at Sevastopol and Novorossiisk. Kravchenko added that next year, the Russian Black Sea Fleet will receive new ships, submarines, and aircraft. -- Ustina Markus AGRICULTURAL WORKERS PROTEST AGAIN. Hundreds of agricultural workers took part in a rally outside the federal government building in Moscow on 10 April to demand state support for the agroindustrial complex, measures to protect domestic producers from cheap, low quality foreign imports, and the cancellation of the 7 March presidential decree on the sale of land, Russian TV reported. A similar protest was held on 26 March (see OMRI Daily Digest, 27 March 1996). The demonstration was addressed by Agrarian Party leader Mikhail Lapshin, whose main goal is the preservation of the system of collective and state farms and the prevention of the unrestricted sale of farmland. The party backs Communist leader Zyuganov in the presidential election. -- Penny Morvant PROTEST IN PRIMORSK KRAI. Workers at about 300 enterprises in Primorsk Krai held warning strikes on 10 April to draw attention to the region's economic difficulties, ITAR-TASS reported. Unions are demanding the payment of the almost 1.5 trillion ruble federal debt to the krai, a reduction in taxes, and the stabilization of energy prices. According to Russian Public TV (ORT), the strikers resolved not to allow Our Home Is Russia representative Sergei Belyaev to leave Vladivostok until he gives specific assurances that the government will meet its obligations. Fuel shortages in the krai have led to power cuts and a 20% fall in output, while wage arrears amounted to almost 500 billion rubles ($103 million), with the public sector accounting for about 10% of the total, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 April. -- Penny Morvant FEDERATION COUNCIL APPROVES MINIMUM WAGE BILL. The parliament's upper house voted on 10 April to approve a bill raising the minimum wage from 63,250 to 75,900 rubles ($16) a month as of 1 April, ITAR-TASS reported. The vote was preceded by a heated debate, with several deputies expressing concern that the increase could not be funded. The Duma first voted to raise the minimum wage in January, but that bill was rejected by the Federation Council. The current version was approved by the Duma on 20 March. Initial media reports said Yeltsin opposed the hike; subsequently, however, presidential press secretary Sergei Medvedev said his boss welcomed the decision. The minimum wage and pension should be indexed every three months, and the last increase took place on 1 January. -- Penny Morvant GOVERNMENT RELIES ON SECURITIES TO COVER DEFICIT. The head of the Finance Ministry's Department of State Securities, Bella Zlatkis, said that short-term treasury bills (GKO-OFZ) worth 25 trillion rubles ($5.1 billion) will be sold in April, up from 20 trillion in March and 17 trillion in February, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 April. Partly this is because of the need to cover maturing securities: in May, total placements on the GKO-OFZ primary market should fall to 11 trillion rubles in order to avoid a crash in the already saturated market from taking place on the eve of the presidential election. Domestic borrowing through GKOs and OFZs is the major source for covering the budget deficit--in 1995 two thirds of the deficit was financed this way. The government expects the 1996 budget deficit to be 115 trillion rubles. -- Natalia Gurushina HOUSING UPTURN. There are signs of recovery in the construction industry, ITAR TASS reported on 10 April. In 1995, housing construction was up 9% on the previous year. The World Bank has awarded Russia a $400 million loan to fund housing construction in five selected cities--St. Petersburg, Nizhnii Novgorod, Novgorod, Barnaul, and Tver. Only $5 million has been spent to date, but authorities hope to raise this figure to $70 million by the end of the year. Construction contracts will be awarded through competitive bids, some of which have already taken place. -- Peter Rutland CENTRAL BANK'S NEW MEASURES TO CONTROL COMMERCIAL BANKS. The Central Bank (TsB) intends to monitor the financial situation of Russia's 20-30 largest commercial banks by transferring their accounts to the TsB's central accounting department, Segodnya reported on 10 April. This move is designed to eliminate the system of double accounting when banks have two balances--one for internal use and another for the TsB. TsB also introduced tighter controls over banks' operations in foreign financial markets. The Central Bank insists that it will not support the "problem" banks (about 20% of the total number of 2,500). Since 1993, more than 300 banks have had their licenses revoked, and another 300 banks are in the process of being closed or merged, Segodnya reported on 6 April. A survey revealed that 54% of the members of the Association of Russian Banks consider a bank crisis "probable" in the near future, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported on 10 April. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA PAKISTANI PEACEKEEPERS FOR NAGORNO-KARABAKH? Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev, on an official state visit to Pakistan, met on 10 April with Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto to sign nine bilateral agreements on economic and other issues, Turan and AFP reported. Bhutto also announced a $1 million grant for Azerbaijanis made homeless during the Karabakh conflict. She reiterated Pakistan's condemnation of "Armenian aggression" and stated that Pakistan would be prepared to contribute a contingent to an OSCE peacekeeping force for Nagorno-Karabakh, according to Turan. -- Liz Fuller AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION PAPER DEFIES CENSOR TO PRINT LETTER "WRITTEN IN HUMAN BLOOD." In its issue for 10 April the Azerbaijani newspaper Muhalifat printed the text of an appeal, reportedly written in human blood, by a member of the OPON special police imprisoned for his participation in the March 1995 standoff with Azerbaijani government troops, Turan reported the same day. The paper's staff have been called to account for failing to submit the text to the government censor. Speaking at an official meeting to mark the first anniversary of the standoff, the head of Azerbaijan's presidential administration, Ramiz Mekhtiev, charged that all Azerbaijani opposition parties, including the Popular Front and Musavat, were implicated, possibly signaling a new wave of reprisals, Turan reported on 5 April. -- Liz Fuller U.S. NATO AMBASSADOR IN TURKMENISTAN. U.S. Ambassador to NATO Robert Hunter visited Ashgabat on 8 April for talks with Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov on the country's future participation in the Partnership for Peace (PfP) program, RFE/RL reported the next day. An official Turkmen Press report noted that Ashgabat's arrangements to cooperate with NATO do not contravene the country's policy of neutrality. Turkmenistan became the first Central Asian country to join the PfP in 1994 and, like its counterparts in the region, is preparing to reach an agreement on several specifics, notably officer training, budget planning, consultation, help with natural disasters, and military modernization. -- Lowell Bezanis ALLEGED VIOLATIONS OF PRESS FREEDOMS IN KAZAKHSTAN. The Kazakhstan- American Bureau on Human Rights alleged on 9 April that independent journalists in the country are being increasingly persecuted by the state and a new censorship regime has been introduced by the State Radio and Television Committee. Kazakhstan's constitution formally bans censorship. The bureau said that journalists who are persecuted by the state for critical reporting are habitually accused of "slander" under the country's criminal code. The report accused the state committee of banning a number of programs that criticized the policies of regional leaders, and of persecuting Erik Nurshin, the editor of the independent newspaper Dozhivem do ponedelnika, for his publication's reporting. -- Bhavna Dave OSCE MISSION HEAD IN TAJIKISTAN URGES COMPROMISE. The head of the OSCE mission in Tajikistan, Gancho Ganchev, warned that the emergence of "a third force" in the country is likely unless the Tajik government and opposition reach a compromise, according to an 11 April ITAR-TASS report cited by the BBC. He said an authoritative body of government and opposition members should be formed to implement the peace agreement signed last August. Meanwhile, citizens in the towns of Tursunzoda in the west and Kurgan-Tyube in the south, where two armed rebellions took place earlier this year, protested early this week over food shortages. Protestors in Kurgan-Tyube also called for the release of Khoja Karimov, a Tajik deputy and member of the now disbanded Popular Front that helped the present government come to power, the BBC cited Interfax as reporting. -- Bhavna Dave [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Victor Gomez ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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