|The discovery of a new dish does more for human happines than the discovery of a new star. - Anthelme Brillat-Savarin|
No. 95, Part I, 16 May 1996
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 FEDERATION COUNCIL REJECTS LAW ON ELECTION MONITORING. The Federation Council rejected a bill that would have given private citizens the right to monitor elections, arguing that such a system would be too expensive and would interfere in regional affairs, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported on 15 May. Federation Council member A. Ronetskii was harshly critical of the bill's author, Yabloko member Viktor Sheinis, charging that Moscow deputies are trying to tell the people in the provinces how to live. The upper house also rejected the idea of allowing local courts to declare an election invalid within their territorial jurisdiction, ITAR-TASS reported. The two houses will now set up a conciliatory committee to resolve their differences. Meanwhile, President Boris Yeltsin rejected a proposed law on the transfer of power, saying it did not make clear whether the new president would "replace" the former president's administration or merely "reorganize" it. -- Robert Orttung DUMA TAKES UP ORT--AGAIN. The State Duma requested that the president, government, and Procurator-General's Office review the results of an audit of Russian Public TV's (ORT) finances, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 May. The audit, ordered by the Duma last October, found that the 51% state-owned network misused budgetary and non-budgetary funds. For instance, ORT allegedly paid its bills to private companies on time, but failed to do so for services provided by state-run companies. In 1995, the Duma twice passed laws to nullify the creation of ORT, which took place under a November 1994 presidential decree. However, President Yeltsin vetoed the laws, and in November the Constitutional Court refused to hear an appeal from Duma deputies on the matter (see OMRI Daily Digest, 6 April, 8 June, and 6 November 1995). -- Laura Belin CONTROVERSY SURROUNDING ZYUGANOV STATEMENT. Spokesmen for the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) appeared on NTV to refute comments Gennadii Zyuganov allegedly made to the Far East newspaper Amurskaya pravda. The paper quoted Zyuganov as saying that if he is elected, he will not take orders from Valentin Kuptsov, deputy leader of the KPRF Duma faction, Albert Makashov, one of the leaders of the October 1993 revolt against Yeltsin, and "other odious figures in the KPRF leadership." However, Kuptsov dismissed the interview as a "falsification," and KPRF Duma deputy Anatolii Lukyanov said that for Zyuganov, "the collective opinion of the party is law." Also on 15 May, Kemerovo Oblast legislature chairman and "reserve" Communist presidential candidate Aman Tuleev joined Zyuganov on the campaign trail in Perm, where Tuleev pledged to withdraw his candidacy before the June election in favor of Zyuganov, Pravda reported on 16 May. -- Laura Belin YELTSIN, FEDOROV DISCUSS CREATING COALITION GOVERNMENT. President Boris Yeltsin and presidential candidate Svyatoslav Fedorov met and discussed creating a coalition government, Russian media reported on 15 May. Fedorov suggested that Yeltsin form a "government of national unity" in between the first round of the presidential election, scheduled for 16 June, and the runoff, which will probably take place on 7 July. He said he would accept the post of prime minister if such a government were created. (Fedorov declined to accept that job when Yeltsin offered it to him in autumn 1991.) Yeltsin said he would "thoroughly examine" Fedorov's proposal. One ITAR-TASS commentator suggested that even if presidential hopefuls like Fedorov and Grigorii Yavlinskii do not withdraw their candidacies before 16 June, their support afterwards could give Yeltsin a "second wind" in the runoff. -- Laura Belin CHERNOMYRDIN MEETS WITH ZHIRINOVSKY. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin had an unplanned meeting with presidential candidate Vladimir Zhirinovsky behind closed doors on 15 May, ITAR-TASS reported. Earlier in the day, Zhirinovsky predicted that Yeltsin would win the election and that he or Zyuganov would come in second, RTR reported. -- Robert Orttung FEDERATION COUNCIL APPROVES DEFENSE LAW. . . The parliament's upper house on 15 May approved a revised version of the draft law on defense, ITAR-TASS reported. The bill, the basic legislative foundation for Russia's defense establishment, has had a rough ride: an earlier version was vetoed by the Federation Council and then by the president after the Duma overrode the upper house's veto. A commission representing Yeltsin and both legislative chambers drew up a compromise bill that was approved by the Duma on 24 April. Lt. Gen. Mikhail Surkov, deputy chairman of the Duma Defense Committee, said the new law would spawn a whole set of bills on issues such as military service and the status of military personnel, which should be ready by the end of the year. He added that a law on alternative civilian service is currently being drafted. -- Doug Clarke . . . BILLS ON BODYGUARDS AND PENSIONS, BUT REJECTS ONE ON HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSIONER. Also on 15 May, the Federation Council approved a bill on the provision of bodyguards to senior state officials, ITAR-TASS reported. The draft was passed by the Duma on 24 April (see OMRI Daily Digest, 25 April 1996). Although the Federation Council adopted the bill, the deputies noted that it was not clear under which conditions state protection might be extended to officials and foreign representatives not usually covered by the law. The Federation Council also approved the Duma bill raising pensions by 10% as of 1 May (see OMRI Daily Digest, 18 April). Compensation payments to pensioners have also been increased. Finally, the deputies rejected the draft legislation on Russia's human rights commissioner, objecting to the process by which the commissioner is to be appointed (see OMRI Daily Digest, 17 April) and to the bill's failure to provide for regional human rights commissioners. -- Penny Morvant TRIAL OF SOLDIER WHO KILLED JOURNALIST POSTPONED. The trial of the soldier who killed journalist Natalya Alyakina in Budennovsk in June 1995 was postponed until next month due to the absence of several eyewitnesses, NTV and ORT reported on 15 May. The soldier is charged with carelessly handling a firearm (see OMRI Daily Digest, 15 May 1996). Alyakina's widower, Gizbert Mrozek, complained that the investigation into his wife's death was inadequate, as the possibility of premeditated murder was never considered, according to NTV. -- Laura Belin DISAGREEMENT OVER YELTSIN'S CHECHEN VISIT. Russian Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov on 15 May said there can be no question of negotiating with the separatist Chechen leadership following Chechen field commander Shamil Basaev's threats to give Russian President Boris Yeltsin a "warm welcome" in Chechnya, Russian media reported. Kulikov also argued that the visit should be postponed. However, Yeltsin's press secretary, Sergei Medvedev, told RTR that Yeltsin rejects threats and considers it "his duty" to visit Grozny in the interests of achieving peace. The Swiss diplomat who heads the OSCE mission in Grozny, Tim Guldimann, held what were termed "beneficial and productive" talks with Chechen separatist leaders including acting President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev on 15 May, AFP reported, quoting Interfax. Meanwhile, three Russian soldiers were shot dead in central Grozny and hostilities are continuing in Bamut and Stary Achkhoi. -- Liz Fuller CONCERN OVER PERSECUTION OF CHECHENS IN MOSCOW. The international human rights organization Amnesty International sent a letter to the Russian Procurator's Office, the Interior Ministry, and law-enforcement agencies in Moscow expressing concern over the persecution of Chechens in Moscow by police, Ekspress-khronikha reported on 16 May. Amnesty International listed a series of cases in which Chechen refugees were threatened and beaten by Moscow police officers and demanded that the incidents be investigated. -- Penny Morvant RUSSIA INSISTS ON FREE TRANSIT THROUGH TURKISH STRAITS. Responding to Turkish threats to restrict tanker traffic, Fuel and Energy Minister Yurii Shafranik told ITAR-TASS on 15 May that the Turkish straits must remain open for maritime navigation without any new restrictions. (see OMRI Daily Digest, 14 May 1996) Shafranik insisted that Turkey could not unilaterally change the 1936 Montreux Convention, which governs the use of the straits. Shafranik dismissed Turkish concerns about the safety implications of increased tanker traffic through the straits, saying they could best be addressed by forming an international commission to study the issue. ITAR-TASS linked the Turkish threats with the 27 April Russian-Kazakhstani agreement on the Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC), which calls for Kazakhstani oil to be exported via the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossiisk. -- Scott Parrish RUSSIAN-BELARUSIAN EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE MEETS. The executive committee of the Russian-Belarusian community held its second session in Moscow on 15 May, Russian media reported. Under the chairmanship of Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, the committee adopted decisions granting the citizens of each member of the community equal rights to health care, employment, and other social services in both countries. On the same day, Russia and Belarus also signed a protocol outlining cooperation in hard-currency and export control. Meanwhile, the Russian Federation Council ratified the 2 April agreement forming the community, as well as the 29 March quadripartite integration accord signed by Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan. -- Scott Parrish INTEGRATION COMMITTEE HOLDS FIRST SESSION. Under the chairmanship of Kazakhstani First Deputy Prime Minister Nigmatzhan Isingarin, the Integration Committee jointly created by Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Belarus met on 15 May, ITAR-TASS reported. The head of the Russian delegation, Deputy Prime Minister Alexei Bolshakov, said the group discussed logistical and organization questions related to the new structure, including the establishment of a central office in Moscow with a staff of 60 people. The presidents of the four states met on 16 May to prepare for the 12-nation CIS summit on 17 May, RFE/RL reported. -- Roger Kangas NEW AGRICULTURE MINISTER CALLS FOR STRONGER STATE SUPPORT. The appointment of Viktor Khlystun as the new agriculture minister may signal serious changes in governmental policy. The minister described the existing system of federal financing in agriculture as insufficient and called for larger budgetary outlays, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 May. Khlystun argued that the state should resume the practice of giving low- interest credits to agricultural enterprises and use customs duties and import quotas to protect domestic producers. The minister maintains that Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin shares his position. However, in a commentary on 16 May, Izvestiya characterized Khlystun as a former member of the "Gaidar team" and suggested he will pursue liberal policies. -- Natalia Gurushina NEW IMPORT TARIFFS. A new import tariff regime has been introduced with effect from 15 May. Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Davydov told ITAR-TASS that some duties will be raised while others will be lowered, leaving the average tariff at 14-15%. Duties will go up on imports of textiles and certain consumer goods. The duty on shoes is 20%, sugar 25%, meat 15%, furniture 20%, household appliances from 10 to 30%, and textiles from 5 to 30%. -- Peter Rutland BUDGET DEFICIT WIDENS. First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Kadannikov told the Duma on 15 May that budget receipts in the first quarter are running at only 69% of the planned level, ITAR-TASS reported. The Duma passed a preliminary resolution declaring the government's budget performance "unsatisfactory," and advised the government against going ahead with the plan to cut import duties. Total revenue, including 4 trillion rubles in bank loans, was 49 trillion rubles ($9.8 billion), while spending was 70 trillion rubles ($13.8 billion), 77% of the target level. A total of 23 trillion rubles of federal spending went to pay wage arrears, one of President Yeltsin's pre-election promises. However, one good piece of news surfaced on 14 May. The State Statistics Committee announced that GDP rose 2% in April, the first rise in five years, ITAR-TASS reported. Exports surged by 24%, and imports by 6%. -- Peter Rutland TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA UZBEK-IRANIAN RIFT? Uzbek President Islam Karimov's criticism of Iran at the recent Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) meeting in Ashgabat has elicited a response from that country's conservative daily, the Tehran Times, AFP reported on 15 May. At the meeting, Karimov had threatened to withdraw Uzbekistan from the organization if member states continued to "politicize" it, referring to Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani's condemnation of the U.S. and Israel. The Tehran paper reponded that "Uzbekistan should think twice before it acts or speaks," and suggested that the country bring its policies into line with those of other ECO states. Uzbekistan has been trying to improve ties with the U.S. and has cordial relations with Israel. The presidents of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan have expressed support for Karimov's criticisms, calling the "politicization trend" in the ECO unacceptable. -- Roger Kangas SITUATION IN NORTH TAJIKISTAN STABILIZES. Government officials have made several concessions to thousands of demonstrators in the northern Tajik cities of Khojent and Ura-Tyube, Russian and Western sources report. In Khojent, demonstrations continue, even though the head of the Leninabad regional militia has been relieved of his post as a concession to the protesters, and other officials are expected to lose their jobs in the near future. In Ura-Tyube, order has been restored after a demonstration there turned into a riot. The Tajik Interior Ministry now claims that three people were killed--not five as earlier reported--when troops opened fire on the rioters. Meanwhile, the newly appointed UN special envoy to Tajikistan, Dietrich Merrem, met with Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov on 15 May in an attempt to restart the negotiation process between the government and the United Tajik Opposition, ITAR-TASS reported. -- 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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