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No. 87, Part I, 03 May 1996
Newly published OMRI Analytical Briefs: No. 92: "Man Tied to Kidnapping Case of Slovak President's Son Killed in Explosion," by Sharon Fisher No. 93: "Censorship in Belarus," by Ustina Markus No. 94: "Is Rump Yugoslavia Aiming at Its Own Foreign Policy," by Stan Markotich No. 95: "How Free Is the Media in the CIS?," by Laura Belin 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 RUSSIA YELTSIN TO MEET WITH DUDAEV'S WIDOW? Russian President Boris Yeltsin may meet in Moscow during the next few days with Alla Dudaeva, widow of the Chechen president, Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported on 2 May. Speaking in Yaroslavl on 2 May, Yeltsin also reaffirmed his intention to visit Chechnya in order to thank Russian troops serving there and give impetus to the peace progress, perhaps by meeting with Chechen field commanders. Meanwhile, Russian federal forces extended for 48 hours their ultimatum to some 300 Chechen fighters in the besieged town of Shali, 30 km southeast of Grozny, to surrender their arms. The town's residents have already begun to flee in anticipation of a Russian assault. -- Liz Fuller YELTSIN WOOS LEBED. President Boris Yeltsin met with rival presidential candidate Aleksandr Lebed on 2 May to discuss the election campaign, Russian and Western media reported. On 30 April, Yeltsin campaign organizer Sergei Filatov had told ITAR-TASS that Yeltsin hoped to convince some of his opponents to quit the race and support him. However, when he emerged from the half-hour session, Lebed told NTV that "we established the fact that I will be participating in the election." Lebed denied reports that Yeltsin had offered him a government post, such as defense minister, in return for his support but said he and Yeltsin had agreed that all candidates should refrain from inciting ethnic and class tensions. According to the former general, Yeltsin also suggested that all candidates sign a formal pledge not to challenge the election results, a move Lebed endorsed. -- Scott Parrish YELTSIN SIGNS DECREES ON ECONOMIC SECURITY . . . President Yeltsin signed a decree on 30 April on state strategy for ensuring "economic security," Radio Mayak reported the following day. The decree deals with the nature of internal and external threats to economic security and policy mechanisms to protect Russia's national interests in this regard. Among the threats identified by Yeltsin are the high degree of poverty and large differentials in wealth distribution in the country; deformations in the structure of the economy, such as the increased dependence on the energy sector, the large number of loss-making companies, the dominance of imports over domestically produced goods; and the criminalization of society and the economy. -- Penny Morvant . . . AND SUPPORT FOR VETERANS. Also on 30 April, Yeltsin issued a decree ordering additional measures to implement the Law on Veterans, Radio Rossii reported on 2 May. A series of financial benefits outlined in the law have not been paid, causing discontent that Yeltsin, with an eye to the elections, is keen to minimize. The decree orders the president's envoys in the regions to report back to the Main Control Administration on implementation of the law and the Procurator's Office to increase its monitoring. ITAR-TASS reported on 23 April that this year's budget allocates 6.5 trillion rubles ($1.4 billion) to assisting veterans--enough to cover the cost of only a fifth of the benefits they are entitled to. -- Penny Morvant COSSACKS CALL ON YELTSIN, ZYUGANOV TO NEGOTIATE. The Cossacks' Union has called on presidential candidates Boris Yeltsin and Gennadii Zyuganov to hold pre-election negotiations and all other candidates to withdraw from the race, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported on 2 May. The union claims that a sharp change in the country's political course could lead to an armed confrontation and the collapse of Russian statehood. The Cossacks' request follows a similar appeal by 13 leading bankers and entrepreneurs last week (see OMRI Daily Digest, 29 April 1996). The majority of the Cossacks support Yeltsin's candidacy. -- Anna Paretskaya MILLIONAIRE STANDS FOR SOCIALISM. Millionaire presidential candidate Vladimir Bryntsalov said he is forming a party to be called the Russian Socialist Party (RSP), which will stand for a "truly Russian model of socialism." The party program, published as a paid advertisement in Trud on 30 April, proposes that presidential powers be limited and that the victorious party in a parliamentary election be given authority to form the government. The RSP, one of several new socialist parties, rejects radical political views, including fascism and communism. In April, former Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin and another presidential candidate, Martin Shakkum, formed the Socialist Party of Russia and the Socialist Popular Party of Russia, respectively. -- Anna Paretskaya PRIMAKOV AT COUNCIL OF EUROPE MEETING. Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov arrived in Strasbourg on 2 May to attend Russia's first session of the Council of Europe Ministerial Committee as a full member of the council. Addressing an informal gathering of foreign ministers that evening, Primakov declared that Russia attaches great importance to the council and hopes to "work effectively" with it. He said Russia expects the council to take "more consistent and vigorous" steps to protect the rights of Russians living in the Baltic states, and elaborated on Moscow's plans to resolve the Chechen conflict, which were recently criticized by the council's Parliamentary Assembly. In remarks linked to Russian opposition to NATO expansion, Primakov also suggested that Moscow would like to see the council as the "cornerstone" of a new all- European security system "without dividing lines or blocs." -- Scott Parrish JOINT RUSSIAN/U.S. STUDY ON PLUTONIUM RECYCLING. The Russian Ministry of Nuclear Energy is cooperating with its U.S. counterpart in studying methods of recycling the plutonium recovered from dismantled nuclear warheads, Deputy Nuclear Energy Minister Nikolai Yegorov reported on 2 May. Radio Rossii quoted him as saying that at least six methods are under investigation, ranging from deep underground burial to reprocessing the plutonium into fuel for atomic power reactors. He said the studies are to be completed by June of this year. -- Doug Clarke RUSSIA, SWEDEN SIGN AGREEMENTS. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and his Swedish counterpart, Goeran Persson, signed several agreements on closer coordination between Russian and Swedish police and border control agencies in Stockholm on 2 May, Russian and Western agencies reported. In his meetings with Swedish officials, Chernomyrdin emphasized the importance of foreign investment in making economic reform in Russia "irreversible." He urged Sweden, which currently ranks 33rd in foreign investment in Russia, to take a more active role in this area. The Russian leader also raised security issues with his hosts, however, including NATO expansion, which Russia opposes, and the situation of the Russian minority in the Baltic states. Moscow may hope for some indirect support from Stockholm on these issues because of Sweden's traditional stands in support of neutrality and human rights. -- Scott Parrish ANTI-WAR DEMO IN MOSCOW. Activists from a number of public organizations, including the Radical Party and Memorial, took part in a demonstration on 2 May in Moscow to protest the war in Chechnya, Ekspress-khronikha reported. The demonstrators carried banners reading "Human life is more precious than the territorial integrity of Russia and the independence of Chechnya," "Peace in Russia! Life to our sons!" and "Troops go home, calm in Chechnya!" Organizer Irina Bagantseva told Ekho Moskvy that similar demonstrations will be held every Thursday in May and June. More than 120 Russian soldiers and many civilians have been killed in Chechnya in the first half of April despite the peace plan announced by Yeltsin on 31 March. -- Penny Morvant LIVING STANDARDS IN MOSCOW. According to the Moscow Federation of Trade Unions, only 45,000 people are officially registered as unemployed in the capital, which has a population of more than 9 million. Many workers, however, are not being paid on time: the unions say 450 enterprises owe a total of 347 billion rubles ($70 million) to their employees. Workers in the fuel industry earned the highest wages in the capital--2.7 million ($545) a month in March. The average monthly wage in the capital is almost 920,000, while the subsistence minimum is 690,000, according to the federation. -- Penny Morvant RUBLE HOLDS VALUE, ECONOMY SLUGGISH. In April, monthly inflation was less than 2.8%, Economy Minister Yevgenii Yasin told ITAR-TASS on 30 April. However, industrial output fell by a disturbing 7% in the first quarter of the year. The low inflation has meant that the ruble has only slipped to 4,940/$1--still within the declared corridor of 4,550- 5,150/$1, which was set for six months in January 1996. The Central Bank has been allowing a creeping devaluation of 3-4 rubles a day. However, NTV reported on 2 May that for the past three weeks speculative pressure against the ruble has been increasing in the off-exchange interbank market. -- Peter Rutland ECONOMIC INTEGRATION WITHIN THE CIS. Vladimir Pokrovskii, deputy chairman of the Interstate Economic Committee, discussed the development of economic cooperation within the CIS on Radio Mayak on 2 May. He explained that by "an accident of history" there are three alliances within the CIS: the Central Asian Union, the union of the four (Russia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan), and the union of the two (Belarus and Russia). He argued that these bodies form a "pyramid" of increasing integration. The "foursome" is focusing on building a customs union, while the "twosome" is looking at a payments union and the creation of a common currency. Pokrovskii conceded that monitoring the implementation of the 600 plus agreements signed by CIS member states is a difficult challenge. -- Peter Rutland TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA ADZHARIA DENIES ISSUING ULTIMATUM. The press center of the Adzhar Supreme Soviet has refuted Georgian and Western reports that Adzhar leader Aslan Abashidze demanded that the Georgian leadership bestow presidential status on Adzharia (see OMRI Daily Digest, 2 May), according to ITAR-TASS and Radio Rossii. -- Liz Fuller GRACHEV IN ARMENIA. Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev visited Yerevan on 2 May to sign several military cooperation agreements, including protocols on joint military planning and training, and cooperation in air defense, ITAR-TASS reported. He told Russian Public Television (ORT) that Russia's military cooperation with Armenia was the best of all the CIS member states, and that the two sides were planning the "coalition deployment" of the two countries' armed forces if circumstances required such a step. Radio Rossii reported that Grachev and Patriarch Aleksii II, who is also visiting Armenia, will lay wreaths at a memorial to Russians who died in the 1827 war with Persia. -- Doug Clarke OFFICIAL NAME CHANGES IN UZBEKISTAN. In one of its first acts, the Uzbek Oliy Majlis (parliament) voted to change two more place names from their Soviet-era designations, Narodnoye slovo reported on 30 April. In the region of Jizzak, the town of Ulyanovo has been changed to Dashtobod, while in Andijan, the Komsomolabad District has been renamed Ulugnor District. Both changes were requested by the regional councils of the respective areas. -- Roger Kangas UN DRUG SEMINAR IN TASHKENT. A UN-sponsored conference on narcotics trafficking opened in Tashkent on 3 May, ITAR-TASS reported. Participants will discuss the logistical problems of implementing a supraregional three-year program on government cooperation, as well as special technical projects to help curb the flow of drugs in the region. Representatives from the Central Asian states, Russia, the U.S., U.K., Iran, Turkey, India, Afghanistan, and other states are among the 200 delegates. The conference will focus on the drug-corridors through the Tajik city of Murgab, the Kyrgyz city of Osh, and the Uzbek city of Andijan. -- Roger Kangas TAJIK GOVERNMENT ANXIOUS TO EXTEND CEASEFIRE, RESUME TALKS. Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov on 30 April expressed his desire to once again extend a fragile ceasefire agreement with the Tajik opposition that expires on 26 May, the BBC reported. Rakhmonov, speaking to U.S. Ambassador to Tajikistan Grant Smith, said his government would do everything possible to achieve results at peace talks. Meanwhile, the Radio Voice of Free Tajikistan reported on 1 May that two representatives of the Democratic Party of Tajikistan (DPT) were arrested on 22 April in the northern town of Ura-Tyube. An Iranian source, Salam, reported that 40 students from Tajikistan who were accepted at Qazvin International University in Iran were denied permission to travel to that country. The Tajik Education Ministry claimed it was concerned about the influence of Islamic fundamentalism. -- Bruce Pannier BANK SCANDAL IN KYRGYZSTAN. At a 29 April meeting of the government commission fighting economic crimes, Kyrgyz prosecutors charged 17 bank directors with misusing credits, according to a 30 April Kyrgyz Radio broadcast monitored by the BBC. The heads of 17 joint-stock banks are charged with illegally allocating nearly 28 million som (about $2.5 million) in credits between the period of early 1995 and the first quarter of 1996. More than 5 million som has been recovered. -- Bruce Pannier [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Victor Gomez ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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