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No. 76, Part I, 17 April 1996
New OMRI Analytical Briefs: - "Leading Candidates in Russian Presidential Elections Seek to Identify Themselves with Orthodoxy," by Penny Morvant - "Turkey's Prime Minister in Baku," 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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ DUMA PASSES LAW ON ELECTION MONITORING. The Duma on 17 April passed a bill on election monitoring aimed at strengthening oversight of all federal, regional, and local elections, ITAR-TASS reported. Article 6 of the bill provides for recounting a randomly chosen sample of 2% of the precincts within a district. If any errors are found, the new law would trigger further recounts. The bill also allows ordinary citizens to monitor the elections, whereas under existing law only party and candidate representatives have this right. Additionally, the bill allows monitors to watch the work of the territorial electoral committees, which summarize results coming in from the precincts and are thought to be responsible for falsifying vote totals. There is considerable evidence that the 1993 Duma elections and referendum to ratify the constitution were falsified and widespread suspicion that Yeltsin will alter results to prevent a Communist victory. -- Robert Orttung ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIA DUMA APPROVES LAW ON HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSIONER. In a 303-2 vote with one abstention, the Duma finally approved the constitutional law on the Russian Federation human rights commissioner, first submitted to the Duma in July 1994, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 April. The bill had been blocked by deputies from the Liberal Democratic Party and the Russian Regions faction, who disagreed with the provisions on the appointment of the commissioner. Consensus was finally reached after amendments were introduced stipulating that each nominee for the post must be approved by a two-thirds majority and that the successful candidate must also win the support of two-thirds of the deputies in the final, secret ballot. The commissioner will have the right to demand information from government organs to review complaints about human rights violations. -- Penny Morvant HECKLERS GREET YELTSIN IN KRASNODAR. President Boris Yeltsin got a mixed response in Krasnodar 16 April during his second campaign swing since becoming an official candidate. One veteran told him that he was too old to run and "had done a lot of evil to the people," Reuters reported. Some groups chanted "put Yeltsin and his band on trial." The president was not cowed by the protests, however, and announced new state handouts, promising veterans that he would increase their pension 125% within a month, Radio Mayak reported. The president also pledged greater benefits for the Cossacks, and announced his intention to sign decrees stimulating the economic development of Krasnodar Krai and Russia's agro-industrial complex, Rossiiskie vesti reported on 17 April. On foreign affairs, he said building closer links with the CIS should be the primary policy focus, and characterized the Black Sea Fleet, partly based in Krasnodar Krai, as an "indispensable element of Russian strategic security." -- Robert Orttung and Scott Parrish LUKOIL HEAD BACKS YELTSIN. Vagit Alekperov, the head of LUKoil, Russia's largest oil company, announced that he would back Yeltsin in the presidential campaign, saying that he was alarmed by talk of nationalizing his firm, AFP reported 16 April. Although Americans own 16% of the company's shares, the share price has frozen around $5, because of fears of a Communist victory, he said. Formed in 1993, LUKoil produced 20% of all Russian oil in 1995 and signed a major deal with ARCO last month that includes a $3 billion loan. Alekperov is considered the second most influential industrialist in Russia, following Rem Vyakhirev, the head of Gazprom, who is also backing Yeltsin. -- Robert Orttung DEADLINE FOR PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES EXPIRES. Voter initiative groups supporting 78 different would-be presidential candidates sprang up in Russia this year, but only 17 of them managed to submit petitions with at least 1 million signatures to the Central Electoral Commission (TsIK) before the 16 April deadline expired, Russian and Western media reported. The TsIK has already registered Gennadii Zyuganov, Boris Yeltsin, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, and Mikhail Gorbachev for the ballot. It refused registration to two little-known candidates, Vladimir Bryntsalov and Martin Shakkum, on technical grounds. The commission must review lists submitted by the remaining 11 candidates within the next 10 days. -- Laura Belin ZYUGANOV SERVES UP MIXED MESSAGES ON CAMPAIGN TRAIL. As Yeltsin's camp continued its attempts to portray its main rival Gennadii Zyuganov as a dangerous extremist, the Communist Party leader spoke cautiously in Bashkortostan's capital city of Ufa, portraying himself as a reasonable alternative to the current regime. Zyuganov told local officials that "reform is essential" and "we cannot go back," Reuters reported on 16 April. He characterized economic reforms as "irreversible" but said communists would carry them out by different means. Zyuganov also assured local officials that he respects their "sovereignty" or autonomous powers granted in recent years to ethnically-defined republics like Bashkortostan. At the same time, he argued that a "centralized economy" would benefit the development of both Russia and Bashkortostan. -- Laura Belin COMMUNIST DEPUTY PROMISES TO DEVELOP ECONOMIC POLICY THROUGH "SOCIAL PARTNERSHIP." Communist Party member Yurii Maslyukov, the chairman of the Duma Economic Policy Committee, also struck a conciliatory tone in an interview published in Pravda on 17 April. Maslyukov stressed the importance of building a "social partnership" of three forces--the state, employers, and trade unions--to find a "common point of view" on economic questions. He criticized the current government for not seeking consensus on economic policy. Maslyukov called for the state to manage its "natural monopolies" more effectively and said his committee would focus on finding ways to increase production, not just in the energy sector but in all branches of industry. -- Laura Belin DUDAEV PROPOSES DEMIREL AS MEDIATOR. Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev has suggested that in addition to Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev, a senior Muslim statesman such as Turkish President Suleyman Demirel could also act as a mediator between himself and President Boris Yeltsin, Russian media reported on 16 April. A senior Russian Foreign Ministry official said Russia would have no objections to Turkish mediation, AFP reported, citing Interfax. Various Russian agencies, including the Foreign Intelligence Service and the Foreign Ministry, have repeatedly accused the Turkish authorities of supporting Dudaev; Turkey has consistently denied these charges. Also on 16 April, Ekho Moskvy quoted Yeltsin as saying he would never agree to direct talks with Dudaev whom he termed "a bandit." -- Liz Fuller CHECHNYA OVERSHADOWS TURKO-RUSSIAN ECONOMIC RELATIONS. Russia is allegedly holding up payment of its debts to Turkish contractors due to its displeasure with Turkey's Chechnya policy, Yeni Yuzyil reported on 16 April. The total sum owed was not cited by the paper. Officially, Russia attributes non-payment to a lack of money; unofficially nonpayment is attributed to Turkish provocations in Chechnya. The matter is likely to be taken up by Turkish Energy Minister Husnu Dogan when he arrives in Moscow for two days of talks on 17 April. Turkish contractors have $6 billion worth of contracts in Russia. -- Lowell Bezanis MAJOR GAS PIPELINE BLOWN UP IN DAGESTAN. Two explosions destroyed a 450- meter stretch of the Mozdok-Kazimagomed pipeline near Pervomaiskoe in Dagestan on 15 April, the Russian Emergencies Ministry announced the following day. ITAR-TASS reported that it was the third such explosion on the pipeline since the beginning of the year, and cited experts as concluding that it was the work of Chechen rebels. -- Penny Morvant RUSSIA CRITICAL OF U.S. PROPOSAL FOR KOREAN TALKS. Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Demurin criticized U.S. President Bill Clinton for proposing multilateral negotiations on Korea that exclude Russia, ITAR- TASS reported on 16 April. Clinton had proposed discussing recent tensions between North and South Korea at quadripartite talks between the two Koreas, China, and the U.S. Demurin said Russia favors calling an international conference involving "all interested parties" to discuss the creation of a new security regime on the Korean peninsula. Demurin's comments indicate that Moscow wants to avoid being marginalized in the formulation of a future Korean settlement, as happened in the Middle East and the former Yugoslavia. -- Scott Parrish RUSSIA URGES ISRAEL TO END ATTACKS IN LEBANON. Russia urged Israel to end its attacks on Hezbollah guerrilla positions in Lebanon, Russian and Western agencies reported on 17 April. Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Demurin condemned Hezbollah attacks on Israel but termed the Israeli response "disproportionate" and "counterproductive," suggesting that it could threaten the Middle East peace process. He added that Russia views the developing situation in Lebanon "with growing alarm." Meanwhile, Deputy Foreign Minister Viktor Posavlyuk met in Moscow with both the Israeli and Lebanese ambassadors, and Demurin said the upcoming Moscow visit of Syrian Foreign Minister Farouq al-Shara would focus on the Lebanon situation. Russia has been more critical than other major powers of the recent Israeli offensive in Lebanon. -- Scott Parrish U.S. OFFICIALS SAY URALS PROJECT IS DEFENSIVE. Clinton administration officials declared on 17 April that the large underground military complex under construction in Bashkortostan would not hinder U.S. disarmament aid to Russia, Western agencies reported (see OMRI Daily Digest, 16 April 1996). White House spokesman Brian Cullins admitted that the purpose of the facility is "unclear," except that it is "military in a broad sense." But he added that doubts about it would not prevent President Bill Clinton from recommending that disarmament aid to Russia under the Nunn-Lugar program continue. Defense Department officials suggested that the project is "defensive" in nature. -- Scott Parrish RADIOACTIVE RODS DISCOVERED IN MOSCOW REGION. The Emergencies Ministry announced on 16 April that an unauthorized radioactive waste dump has been discovered in the hamlet of Glazynino in Moscow Oblast, ITAR-TASS reported. Rods discovered at the site emit radiation levels up to 1,600 microroentgens an hour (over 100 times the normal level). AFP, citing a television report, said that the dump was uncovered by a local man using a radiation detector and that the rods and boxes they came in had been used by local people for various purposes. -- Penny Morvant AIOC CRASH MAY COST RUSSIAN BANKS $70 MILLION. Russian banks and companies that financed the activities of the U.S. commodities trading company AIOC in Russia may lose up to $70 million following its collapse, ITAR-TASS reported on 16 April. The company conducted operations on the metals market and began its activities in Russia, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine in the mid-1980s. Its Moscow office, which used to employ 200 people, was closed on 15 April. AIOC reportedly suffered losses of more than $22 million following a sharp drop in the price of ferrochrome. -- Natalia Gurushina YELTSIN ISSUES DECREE TO SUPPORT AGRO-COMPLEX. President Yeltsin signed on 16 April a decree on measures to stabilize the economic situation in the agro-industrial complex, ITAR-TASS reported. The decree covers all agricultural producers regardless of their organizational or ownership structure. It stipulates that the government will write off all farm debts (see OMRI Daily Digest, 15 April 1996), set up lower electricity fees starting from 1 May, give farms a 5.1 trillion ruble ($1.04 billion) commodity credit, and allocate another 800 billion rubles to individual farmers for land purchases. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA GAZIEV EXTRADITED TO BAKU. Former Azerbaijani Defense Minister Rahim Gaziev, who was arrested on 14 April in Moscow where he has been living in exile since escaping from detention in Azerbaijan in September 1994, was extradited on 16 April to Baku where he has been sentenced to death in absentia on charges of treason, Turan and Radio Mayak reported. The Russian procurator-general has asked the Azerbaijani authorities to provide evidence to support similar charges brought against former President Ayaz Mutalibov, who was hospitalized after his arrest in Moscow on 11 April with high blood pressure, Turan reported. Amnesty International has expressed concern that the two men "will be in grave danger of violation of their human rights" if they are handed over to the Azerbaijani authorities. -- Liz Fuller YILMAZ MEETS WITH MESKHETIANS. During his recent two-day visit to Baku, Turkish Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz met with representatives of the Meskhetian community in Azerbaijan, Turan reported on 16 April. Some Meskhetians have been lobbying for years for permission to return to those areas of southwestern Georgia from which they were deported in 1944; others wish to emigrate to Turkey. The chairman of the Meskhetian community, Khalid Tashtanov, asked for Yilmaz's help, together with that of Russia and Georgia, in resolving the issue of the Meskhetians' repatriation. -- Liz Fuller TAJIK GOVERNMENT, OPPOSITION AGREE TO RESUME PEACE TALKS. The Tajik government and opposition have expressed their readiness to begin a new round of UN-mediated peace talks, according to ITAR-TASS and RFE/RL reports of 15 and 16 April. Tajik Foreign Minister Talbak Nazarov told ITAR-TASS on 15 April that peace talks had been suspended due to the UN's failure to appoint a successor to its peace envoy Ramiro Piriz Ballon, who was transferred to a new position. Ali Akbar Turajonzoda, the leader of the Tajik opposition delegation, told RFE/RL that his party has reconsidered its views and supports a dialogue with the government, urging the UN to nominate a new envoy this week. -- Bhavna Dave TURAJONZODA ON RUSSIA. Recent remarks by Islamic Renaissance Party (IRP) Deputy Chairman Akbar Turajonzoda may shed light on Dushanbe's relations with Moscow, Tashkent, Bishkek, and Almaty. In a 12 April broadcast of the opposition Voice of Free Tajikistan monitored by the BBC, he accused the government of selling off the country's "best enterprises, power stations, and natural resources" in a bid to curry favor with Moscow, and claimed that the deployment of increasing numbers of Russian troops in the republic is disturbing Central Asia's leaders. He alleged that relations between Uzbek President Islam Karimov and the Dushanbe leadership have been particularly strained of late over the troop deployments which Turajonzoda said could be used in the future to restore a "great Russia." -- Lowell Bezanis [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Victor Gomez ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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