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No. 80, Part I, 23 April 1996
New OMRI Analytical Briefs: - "Uighurs Casualty of "Confidence Building" in Asia," 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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ COURT RULES YELTSIN MAY RETURN LAWS TO PARLIAMENT. The Constitutional Court handed President Boris Yeltsin another method of blocking legislation, ruling that the president may return a law to parliament if he finds legal flaws in the document or procedural violations in how it was passed, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported on 22 April. Parliamentary representatives who brought the case had argued that the constitution grants the president only two options once a law has been passed by the State Duma and Federation Council: to sign or to veto. Duma deputy and Communist Party member Oleg Mironov complained to Russian TV (RTR) that the ruling expands the president's already extensive powers, making him in effect a "censor over legislative activities." The court also ruled that the president must act on laws within 14 days, or else he will have no option but to approve them. -- Laura Belin ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIA ZYUGANOV DEFENDS ECONOMIC PROGRAM. Gennadii Zyuganov defended his party's economic program in a 21 April interview on NTV. He said that all forms of property would be respected but declined to give explicit guarantees for private property. He equivocated when pressed to specify how he would control inflation or meet IMF loans conditions, merely repeating familiar themes such as the need to revive domestic industrial production and improve tax collection. He denied that he feels under pressure from leftist parties. He said he is willing to talk "with all sides" in the Chechen conflict--implying that this would include Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev--but insisted that the territorial integrity of Russia is not negotiable. -- Peter Rutland ADMINISTRATION SENDS MIXED SIGNALS ON GRACHEV SPEECH. Yeltsin administration figures on 23 April provided conflicting accounts of Defense Minister Pavel Grachev's 19 April speech to the Duma. The Defense Ministry information department criticized NTV for claiming that Grachev "betrayed the president" and disagreed with the president's peace plan in his speech, Krasnaya zvezda reported. However, presidential national security adviser Yurii Baturin argued that Grachev's criticism of the president's peace plan was "his own opinion," Izvestiya reported on 23 April. Baturin admitted, however, that he had not read the full text of the speech. Citing the failure of the military to implement the peace plan and the high casualty figures on both sides of the conflict, Nezavisimaya gazeta concluded on 23 April that "serious personnel changes are in the works." Numerous rumors of Grachev's impending dismissal in the past have proven unfounded. -- Robert Orttung YAROSLAVL YABLOKO BACKS YELTSIN. The Yaroslavl branch of Yabloko joined a host of other democratic parties at the Interregional Congress of Russian Reform Forces in issuing an appeal to support President Boris Yeltsin as a single candidate from the democratic camp, NTV reported on 22 April. Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii is running his own campaign and has vowed not to support Yeltsin under any circumstances. Vladimir Shumeiko's Reforms-New Course, one of several groups backing Yeltsin's candidacy, organized the affair. Representatives from Russia's Democratic Choice were also at the congress, although that party has yet to decide whom it will support. The pro-Yeltsin mood at the congress was not unanimous. Duma member Konstantin Borovoi argued that the reformers need to support a single candidate only in the second round, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. -- Robert Orttung "NONE OF THE ABOVE" SUPPORTERS ORGANIZE MOVEMENT. A group of citizens has announced the formation of "Nyet," a group that will ask voters to vote against all candidates in the second round of the presidential elections, ITAR-TASS reported. If "none of the above" gets more votes than either of the candidates, new elections have to be called within three months. Recent polls show that 18% of the voters would reject both Yeltsin and Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov if they are the two to reach the second round. Meanwhile, the Central Electoral Committee denied registration to MMM pyramid scheme director Sergei Mavrodi but bowed to a Supreme Court order to register the vice president of the International Foundation for Economic and Social Reform, Martin Shakkum, as the eighth candidate, Russian TV (RTR) reported. -- Robert Orttung FUTURES TRADING ON PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION BEGINS. As is the practice in some Western countries, a "futures market" on the presidential election opened on the Russian stock exchange on 22 April, NTV and Russian TV reported. Speculators can purchase "futures contracts" indicating the percentage of the vote they expect candidates to receive. On the first day of trading, Gennadii Zyuganov finished with 26.4%, Boris Yeltsin 25.3%, Svyatoslav Fedorov 13%, Grigorii Yavlinskii 11%, Vladimir Zhirinovsky 6.1%, Aleksandr Lebed 4.8%, and Mikhail Gorbachev 1.2%. -- Laura Belin COMMUNISTS PAY TRIBUTE TO LENIN. Russian communists, led by presidential candidate Gennadii Zyuganov, laid wreaths on Lenin's tomb on 22 April to mark the 126th anniversary of the Soviet leader's birth, ITAR-TASS and Reuters reported. A few hundred people, mostly elderly, took part in the procession. The popular daily Moskovskii komsomolets made fun of the anniversary with a front-page layout parodying the Pravda of yesteryear. It included a long eulogy to Lenin and a dull harvest report. -- Penny Morvant CHECHEN DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER WOUNDED. Badruddin Djamalkhanov, a deputy prime minister of the pro-Moscow Chechen government, was seriously wounded and two of his entourage killed in an assassination attempt in Grozny on 23 April, ITAR-TASS reported, quoting the commander of the Russian federal forces in Chechnya, Lt. Gen. Vyacheslav Tikhomirov. Last week, Anatolii Yagodin became the 17th journalist to be killed in Chechnya since the beginning of hostilities in December 1994. In southern Chechnya, the town of Shali with a population of 50,000 (including 20,000 refugees) has been surrounded for four days by Russian troops because of the alleged presence there of 350 Chechen militants under the command of President Dzhokhar Dudaev's chief of staff, Aslan Maskhadov, Russian media reported. -- Liz Fuller YELTSIN COURTS REGIONAL PRESS. Admitting that the presidential administration has been guilty of "insufficient openness" in the past, Yeltsin's chief of staff, Nikolai Yegorov, announced the creation of a "regional press agency," ITAR-TASS and Russian Public TV (ORT) reported on 22 April. He said regional journalists would be given more opportunities to interview top leaders and accompany the president on his travels. The agency is intended to facilitate favorable coverage of the president during the upcoming campaign, as Russians increasingly get their news from media based in their own regions. -- Laura Belin YELTSIN IN CHINA. On 22 April, President Yeltsin departed for a three- day visit to Beijing, Russian and Western agencies reported. The same day his foreign policy adviser, Dmitrii Ryurikov, announced that the demarcation process taking place under the 1991 Soviet-Chinese border agreement had been temporarily frozen pending discussions to be held during the visit. As recently as12 April, Yeltsin had announced that the demarcation would be accelerated. The confusion suggests that the border agreement has opponents within the Yeltsin administration. -- Scott Parrish RUSSIAN FISHERIES OFFICIAL BLAMES JAPAN FOR STALLING TALKS. The deputy chairman of the Russian Fisheries Committee, Aleksandr Rodin, blamed Japan for continued failure to conclude a bilateral agreement regulating fishing rights in the waters around the disputed southern Kuril islands, AFP reported on 22 April. Rodin claimed that Japanese refusal to accept inspections by Russian fisheries authorities is the "only obstacle" blocking an agreement in the long-running talks. The lack of an agreement has led to several incidents in which Russian border guards have fired on Japanese trawlers. Rodin's remarks contrast sharply with the warm tone of President Yeltsin's recent meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Ryuarto Hashimoto, and illustrate the continuing poor coordination of Russian foreign policy. -- Scott Parrish REACTION TO MOSCOW SUMMIT MEETINGS. The recent G-7 nuclear safety summit in Moscow was perfectly staged to bolster President Yeltsin's election campaign, Izvestiya reported on 23 April. The paper noted that during the summit and his subsequent talks with Yeltsin, U.S. President Bill Clinton had "deliberately" attempted to avoid a transparent display of support for Yeltsin. However, the paper noted that the G-7 leaders had "avoided at all cost" any criticism of Yeltsin's Chechnya policy, pointing out that Clinton even compared the Chechen conflict with the U.S. Civil War. These remarks earned Clinton censure from the independent monitoring group Human Rights Watch, which said he had "abdicated all responsibility" for advocating improved human rights in Russia, AFP reported. -- Scott Parrish BUDGET DEFICIT WIDENS. In the first quarter of 1996, federal budget spending was 75% of the planned level, while income only reached 68%, Segodnya reported on 19 April. The gap was financed through the sale of 18.4 trillion rubles ($3.8 billion) of treasury bills (GKOs) and 14.3 trillion rubles of foreign loans, and by more dubious "non-traditional" means, such as tax waivers (2.8 trillion rubles) and bank credits (3.7 trillion rubles). Olga Dmitrieva, the head of a subcommittee of the Duma's Budget Committee, criticized both the government and Duma deputies for pursuing policies that exacerbate the situation, increasing spending while further eroding revenues, Segodnya reported on 20 April. -- Peter Rutland RUSSO-CHINESE TRADE ON THE INCREASE. The volume of Russo-Chinese trade reached $5.5 billion in 1995, up 7.6% over 1994, ITAR-TASS reported on 22 April, citing Foreign Economic Relations Minister Oleg Davydov. Russia's exports to China stood at $3.8 billion, mainly metals and fertilizer, while imports reached $1.7 billion. In 1994, 49% of the trade was conducted through barter, but this proportion fell to 29% in 1995. In the first two months of 1996, Russo-Chinese trade rose 20% compared with the same period last year. -- Natalia Gurushina RUSSIA CANCELS NICARAGUAN DEBT. Russia has agreed to write off 98% of Nicaragua's $3.4 billion debt to the former USSR, Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported on 19 April. The bulk of the debt were payments for weapons, oil, and raw materials supplied to the Sandinista government in the 1980s. Nicaragua will repay the remaining $70 million debt over 18 years beginning in 2001. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA TRANSCAUCASUS PRESIDENTS SIGN ACCORDS WITH EU. The presidents of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia signed partnership and cooperation accords with the EU in Luxemburg on 22 April, Turan and Western agencies reported. The accords provide for increased political dialog at the ministerial level, cultural and social exchanges, and a gradual relaxation of trade barriers. Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossyan and Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev further pledged to continue to observe the Nagorno-Karabakh ceasefire agreement signed in May 1994, pending a political settlement of the conflict--a move praised as "encouraging" by German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel. -- Liz Fuller MUSAVAT PARTY SECRETARY RELEASED. Arif Hadjiev, the secretary of the opposition Musavat Party detained by police in Baku last week, has been released after being charged with concealing state crimes and resisting arrest, Turan reported. Former President Abulfaz Elchibey, who disappeared after police occupied his headquarters in the Nakhichevan village of Keleki on 19 April, has taken refuge with relatives and is unharmed. Turan and Russian TV (RTR) quoted President Heidar Aliev as saying in Baku before departing for Europe that former President Ayaz Mutalibov, whose extradition from Moscow to Baku is currently being negotiated, could receive a 12-year sentence rather than the death penalty if he pleads guilty. -- Liz Fuller KAZAKHSTAN TO BUILD MEDICAL CENTER AT NUCLEAR TESTING SITE. An international medical center is to be built at the former Soviet nuclear testing grounds at Semipalatinsk, the republic's minister of science and new technologies told ITAR-TASS on 22 April. The center will receive both government funding and humanitarian aid from abroad. It will specialize in the medical effects of nearly 40 years of nuclear tests conducted in the region. The incidence of cardiovascular diseases in the areas affected by the tests is more than two times higher than the average for the republic as a whole, while that for diseases of the blood is nearly five times higher. -- Doug Clarke BOMB EXPLOSIONS NEAR GOVERNMENT BUILDING IN BISHKEK. Two bombs exploded near government buildings in Bishkek during the early hours of 20 April, according to a Kyrgyz TV report monitored by the BBC. No damage or casualties have been reported and an investigation has been launched. -- Bhavna Dave KARIMOV IN FRANCE. Uzbek President Islam Karimov is wrapping up a four- day visit to France on 23 April during which he met with his French counterpart, Jacques Chirac, to discuss measures to assist French investors in Uzbekistan, Russian media reported. The Uzbek delegation noted that there are only five Uzbek-French joint ventures, while there are more than 200 U.S. and 170 German joint ventures. Last week, Andre Helfi, the director of the company Technip Kramer, was in Tashkent to finalize a $250 million deal to help construct what will be the largest oil refinery in Uzbekistan. -- Roger Kangas [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Victor Gomez ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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