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No. 77, Part I, 18 April 1996
New OMRI Analytical Briefs: - "Tajikistan's Grim Anniversary," by Bruce Pannier - "Turco-Israeli Accord Aggravates Regional Tensions," by Lowell Bezanis 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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ TsIK DENOUNCES MONITORING LAW. Central Electoral Commission (TsIK) Deputy Chairman Aleksandr Ivanchenko denounced the law on election monitoring that the Duma passed on 17 April, saying that if it is approved by the upper house and signed by the president, "it will disorganize the presidential campaign," NTV reported. He rejected the possibility of falsification, arguing that politicians only use this term when "they feel their chances of winning are not great." The TsIK has consistently rebuffed any attempts to increase societal oversight of its activities, fanning already deeply-ingrained suspicion about its work. The Supreme Court announced on 17 April that it would reinstate its decision to force the TsIK to register the candidacy of Duma member Vladimir Bryntsalov. Ivanchenko also announced that the TsIK would investigate the Yeltsin and Zyuganov campaigns because they are allegedly breaking the law by using state workers to seek votes. -- Robert Orttung ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIA DUMA SEEKS INVESTIGATION OF PARTISAN MILITARY UNITS. The Duma on 17 April asked the procurator general to look into reports that some political parties have created armed units, NTV reported. Russia's Democratic Choice member Sergei Yushenkov pressed for the inquiry, citing Russian media reports that the Communist Party has 200 armed fighters. Moskovskii komsomolets on 12 April reported that the Communists have 2,000 fighters in Moscow and other forces available outside the capital. -- Robert Orttung YELTSIN COURTS COSSACKS. Declaring that Cossacks "will defend the borders and interest of Russia" as in Tsarist times, President Yeltsin on 17 April revealed that he had signed decrees to strengthen the legal provisions for their revival, ITAR-TASS reported. Speaking to a resident of Budennovsk, the site of last year's terrorist attack by Chechen separatists, Yeltsin noted that 300,000 Cossacks live in the North Caucasus. One of the decrees deals with Cossack participation in the civil service, and especially in the Federal Border Guard Service. Another deals with the economic and other benefits that would reward such service, such as free plots of land in border areas, interest-free loans, and tax benefits. -- Doug Clarke MORE NEGATIVE MEDIA COVERAGE OF ZYUGANOV. As Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov campaigned in the large Urals city of Chelyabinsk on 17 April, coverage on both NTV and Russian TV called attention to the fact that Zyuganov was turned away from speaking at a factory where Yeltsin recently appeared. However, neither network reported the allegations of local Communists, carried by Reuters, that the factory officials were under pressure from Yeltsin's camp not to receive Zyuganov because they are seeking tax breaks. Few excerpts from Zyuganov's speeches in Chelyabinsk were shown on television, while Yeltsin's visit to Budennovsk on the same day was given extensive coverage. Almost all Moscow-based newspapers reveal an anti-communist bias in election coverage as well, with the exception of openly opposition newspapers such as Sovetskaya Rossiya, Pravda, and Zavtra. -- Laura Belin SVERDLOVSK RESULTS GOOD OR BAD NEWS FOR YELTSIN? Most Russian commentators viewed the results of the 14 April regional elections in Sverdlovsk Oblast as good news for President Yeltsin, since parties whose leaders back Yeltsin's re-election won a combined total of almost 50% of the vote to 15% for the Communist Party (see OMRI Daily Digest, 16 April 1996). However, a Russian TV commentary broadcast on 17 April suggested that the level of support for the Communists was surprisingly high, given that Sverdlovsk voters have traditionally been "cool" toward the party. The latest VCIOM nationwide poll shows Yeltsin with 18% support to Communist Party leader Zyuganov's 26%. In a hypothetical second round, 28% of respondents said they would back Yeltsin and 29% Zyuganov. However, 40% of those surveyed believe Yeltsin will win the elections, while just 23% believe Zyuganov will win. -- Laura Belin TURKEY, MOROCCO ON CHECHNYA MEDIATION. Ankara has played down a suggestion from Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev that it help broker peace in Chechnya's struggle with Moscow, Reuters reported on 17 April. A spokesman for the Turkish Foreign Ministry said Ankara had received "no official information" on the mediation offer and would not adopt a position based on news reports, the Turkish Daily News reported the following day. In response to an earlier suggestion by Yeltsin, Morocco has declared its readiness to act as a mediator, AFP reported on 17 April. Meanwhile, Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev discussed Chechnya and Caspian Sea oil with Turkish Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz in Istanbul on 15 April, Turkish and Russian media reported. Stroev said he does not think Turkish President Suleyman Demirel will be "interfering" in the Chechen peace negotiations "as Dudaev wants him to." -- Lowell Bezanis HUMAN RIGHTS ADVOCATE BLASTS WEST ON CHECHNYA. The well-known human rights campaigner Sergei Kovalev accused the West of deliberately ignoring human rights violations in Chechnya in order to help President Yeltsin gain re-election, Reuters reported on 17 April. Kovalev, in Geneva to address the UN Human Rights Commission, expressed dismay with the West's "pragmatic" policy on Chechnya, which he said is motivated by fear that Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov might become president. He characterized this position as misguided, describing the outlook for human rights in Russia as equally "gloomy" whether Yeltsin or Zyuganov wins. Meanwhile, journalists, politicians, and war critics gathered in Moscow on 17 April at the funeral of Obshchaya gazeta correspondent Nadezhda Chaikova, the 16th journalist killed in Chechnya since fighting began in December 1994, Russian media reported. -- Scott Parrish and Laura Belin DUMA DENOUNCES ARREST OF AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION FIGURES. The State Duma adopted a resolution by a vote of 346-0 with one abstention calling on the government not to extradite former Azerbaijani President Ayaz Mutalibov, Russian and Western agencies reported on 17 April. Former Azerbaijani Defense Minister Rahim Gaziev, also recently arrested in Moscow, has already been returned to Baku. The resolution, sponsored by Popular Power faction leader Sergei Baburin, asked the procurator general to refuse extradition requests aimed at punishing individuals for their political beliefs. The same day, the Duma also passed a resolution, sponsored by ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky, urging the government to reconsider Russia's adherence to UN economic sanctions against Libya. While the Duma often passes such resolutions, they are non-binding and have only indirect impact on official government policy. -- Scott Parrish PENSIONS RAISED, BUT PENSION FUND HEAD UNHAPPY. In line with a recommendation by President Yeltsin, the Duma voted on 17 April to raise the minimum pension by 10% on 1 May to 69,575 rubles ($14) a month, ITAR-TASS reported. The deputies, who had earlier sought a 20% increase, approved the smaller raise two days after Yeltsin hiked the compensation payments that pensioners receive along with their pensions (see OMRI Daily Digest, 16 April 1996). Those on the minimum pension will now receive a total of 219,575 rubles in May, up from 138,250. Those on an average pension will receive about 350,000. Funding these increases will, however, pose problems for the Pension Fund. Its head, Vasilii Barchuk, was clearly unhappy about the decisions, saying on 16 April that he anticipated problems in meeting the fund's obligations in May. -- Penny Morvant DUMA PASSES LAND CODE IN SECOND READING. The Duma voted on 17 April by 270-23 with three abstentions to pass the Russian Federation Land Code in the second reading, ITAR-TASS reported. The bill, which stresses the importance of land as a natural resource and means of production, provides for various forms of leasing arable land but excludes the possibility of its sale. Aleksandr Kotenkov, Yeltsin's representative in the Duma, condemned the draft, arguing that it contradicts Russian citizens' constitutional right to own land, and indicated that the president would refuse to sign such a version, NTV reported. The Land Code was passed in the first reading on 14 July 1995. A large section of the Civil Code cannot be implemented until the parliament approves a law on land. -- Penny Morvant NUCLEAR MINISTRY'S MILITARY PRODUCTION DROPS BY 30% IN 1995 AS CONVERSION PROCEEDS. The implementation of conversion programs resulted in a 30% drop in the military output of companies whose activities are regulated by the Nuclear Energy Ministry, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 April. Due to a lack of federal funding, the ministry's conversion program was largely financed from the industry's $2.5 billion export revenue, especially in such areas as micro-electronics, medical and electronic equipment manufacturing, and optical cables. Of this sum, the ministry has allocated 400 billion rubles ($87.7 million) to security research at nuclear power stations. -- Natalia Gurushina RUSSIANS DO NOT TRUST NEW $100 BILLS. Russians are not eager to change their old $100 notes for the new ones, according to a survey published in Izvestiya on 17 April. Some are unwilling to pay the 2% commission (although in practice many banks charge a lower rate), others are put off by the non-appealing portrait of Benjamin Franklin with a "hard stare and contemptuously pursed lips." Russian experts also claim that the new $100 note looks like a black and white photocopy. Also, forged currency detectors used in Russian banks and currency exchange booths are often unable to detect the magnetic strips on the new bills. An additional problem is that many banks in other CIS countries and shop- keepers in countries popular with Russian shuttle-traders ("chelnoki"), such as Turkey, are refusing to accept the new bills. -- Natalia Gurushina FUEL AND ENERGY COMPLEX'S DEBT TO THE BUDGET TOPPED $5.7 BILLION IN 1995. Fuel and Energy Deputy Minister Anatolii Kozyrev said the industry's debt to the 1995 consolidated budget was 26 trillion rubles ($5.7 billion), compared with the 65 trillion rubles transferred to the budget that year, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 April. The major reason behind this was customers' non-payments to fuel and energy companies, which reached 105 trillion rubles in 1995. The sector itself owes more than 127 trillion rubles to other industries. Kozyrev also noted that because of non-payments by customers, fuel and energy companies lost 15 trillion rubles in profits over the year. As a result, 24% of the enterprises in the sector were run with losses totaling more than 2 trillion rubles. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA ANOTHER FORMER LEADING AZERBAIJANI OFFICIAL ARRESTED. Former Azerbaijan Prime Minister Panah Guseinov was arrested on charges of treason during the night of 16-17 April, Turan reported on 17 April. Guseinov's resignation was one of the first demands made by rebel Colonel Suret Huseinov at the time of the June 1993 coup that led to the ouster of President Abulfaz Elchibey. -- Liz Fuller GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT ISSUES ULTIMATUM OVER RUSSIAN PEACEKEEPERS. In an emergency debate on 17 April, the Georgian parliament adopted a resolution calling for the withdrawal of Russian peacekeeping forces from the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia unless their mandate is expanded within the next two months to enable them to protect ethnic Georgian refugees wishing to return to their homes, AFP and Russian media reported. -- Liz Fuller RFE/RL OPENS TASHKENT BUREAU. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty announced on 17 April that it had opened a news bureau in Tashkent in a ceremony attended by Uzbek President Islam Karimov, diplomatic dignitaries, and RFE/RL directors. The opening of the bureau comes more than two years after Karimov originally agreed to it; an increasingly tight information policy in Uzbekistan, which outside observers been attributed to the conflict in Tajikistan, is believed to have delayed the government's willingness to follow through on the original agreement. RFE/RL already has a bureau in Bishkek, and Turkmenistan has also signaled its willingness to permit the opening of a bureau in Ashgabat. -- Lowell Bezanis TAJIKISTAN'S INTERIOR MINISTER NEW CIS TOP COP. Tajikistan's recently designated interior minister, Sayidamir Zuhurov, was elected chairman of the CIS Interior Minister's Council at a meeting in Dushanbe on 17 April, RFE/RL reported the same day. In a statement to RFE/RL, Zuhurov was upbeat about the implementation of proposals to coordinate efforts against organized crime and weapons and drugs smuggling. -- Lowell Bezanis KAZAKHSTAN TO INCREASE OIL EXPORTS. The joint Kazakhstani-U.S. enterprise Tengizshvroil will now be able to export a significantly greater amount of oil through Russian territory every year following an agreement reached between the relevant parties in Russia and Kazakhstan, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 April. Kazakhstan will now be able to export about 4-5 metric tons of oil and gas condensates a year through the Atyrau-Samara pipeline and through the Russian oil company Transneft's system to Europe, which will bring in an extra $450 million. Tengizchevroil's quota of 1 million metric tons of oil and gas a year had forced it to constrain its oil extraction in the Tengiz oil fields due to a lack of other pipelines to export oil. Kazakhstan's oil output increased by 23% in the first quarter of this year. The Kazakhstani government has sold half of its 50% share in Tengizchevroil to Mobil, whereas Chevron retains its 50% share, the Financial Times reported on 18 April.-- 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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