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No. 106, Part I, 31 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 YELTSIN UNVEILS ELECTION PLATFORM . . . Campaigning in Perm Oblast, President Boris Yeltsin unveiled his long-awaited election platform, in which he promises to finish political and economic reforms begun during the last five years, ITAR-TASS and Reuters reported on 31 May. As is his usual practice, he warned of the dangers of a Communist comeback, reminding supporters, "In recent years, we have begun to forget what empty shelves are." The 31 May issue of Izvestiya previewed the president's platform, which is 250 pages long. In the political sphere, it promises to support civil society, strengthen the multi-party system, and protect freedom of the press and voters' rights. Concerning economic policy, the platform admits that Yeltsin has made mistakes in recent years but promises, among other things, to protect citizens' incomes from inflation and "dishonest commercial structures," enact tax and agrarian reform, and implement an industrial policy to protect domestic producers. -- Laura Belin . . . AND TRIES TO CHARM VOTERS IN BASHKORTOSTAN. Before arriving in Perm, Yeltsin spent two days in the largely agricultural Republic of Bashkortostan, Russian media reported on 30 May. Claiming that the deal he recently concluded in Chechnya will lead to lasting peace there, he pledged to support friendship among different nationalities. (The population of Bashkortostan is about 39% ethnic Russian, 28% Tatar, and 22% Bashkir.) Visiting a state collective farm, Yeltsin promised to support private farming but not to force collectives to disband. The president also displayed his improvisational skills, dancing at a 29 May rock concert and joking with university students at a rally the next day. In the 1995 parliamentary election, parties whose leaders now support Gennadii Zyuganov gained nearly 50% of the vote in Bashkortostan. -- Laura Belin ZYUGANOV HOPES FOR AGREEMENT WITH THIRD FORCE CANDIDATES. Although he firmly rejected Vladimir Zhirinovsky's suggestion that he "fall on his knees" begging for an electoral alliance, Gennadii Zyuganov announced on a campaign visit to the Republic of Kabardino-Balkariya that he would like to hold consultations with Svyatoslav Fedorov and Aleksandr Lebed, NTV reported on 30 May. Fedorov said Zyuganov's offer was news to him and repeated that he favors a "national unity" government, in which Zyuganov, Zhirinovsky, socialists, and liberals would all be represented. Lebed was dismissive of the offer: "I'm not looking for the bright future anymore...Whether [Zyuganov] falls on his knees or not, it doesn't interest me." (For more on Zyuganov, see item in Southeastern Europe section.) -- Laura Belin YAVLINSKII: DON'T BE AFRAID TO VOTE FOR ME. Campaigning in Samara Oblast, Grigorii Yavlinskii said he is confident he can win the presidential election "if people are not afraid" to vote for him, Russian TV (RTR) reported on 30 May. Recent opinion polls measure the number of people planning to vote for Yavlinskii in the single digits, although as many as 18% say he is the candidate they would most like to see become president. News coverage of the Yabloko leader on Russia's major television networks is not so much critical as dismissive. Commentators often suggest that Yavlinskii has no chance to win, and votes cast for him will be wasted or will work in favor of Gennadii Zyuganov. -- Laura Belin SATAROV WARNS OF COMMUNIST FALSIFICATION, DISORDER AFTER THE ELECTIONS. Presidential adviser Georgii Satarov warned on 30 May that the Communists no longer believe that they can win the election, and are prepared to use any means necessary to take power. He told OMRI that the official vote count could be falsified at the level of vote counters who will simply count votes for other candidates as a vote for the Communist candidate. He complained that, according to the current law, observers cannot look over their shoulders and see if the vote count is accurate. He also argued that the Communists are going to conduct their own parallel vote count, potentially leading to a confrontation that could be worse than the October 1993 standoff between President Yeltsin and the Supreme Soviet. He alleged that the Communists are preparing military units that they could deploy before or after the election but refused to be more specific about the source of this information other than saying that it had been published in newspapers. -- Robert Orttung in Moscow YELTSIN SUPPORT GROUP ACCUSES OPPOSITION OF CHEATING IN 1995 DUMA CAMPAIGN. The All-Russian Movement for Social Support of Yeltsin issued a press release on 30 May arguing that several opposition parties, including the Communist Party of the Russian Federation and the Liberal Democratic Party, had benefited from suspicious practices during last year's Duma campaign. In many regions where the Communists are strong, as many as 40% of the votes were cast in "mobile ballot boxes" that were established to allow people who could not come to the polls to vote at a more convenient location. In Russia generally, only 4.6% of the voters used this method of voting. There was also a direct correlation between increased turnout and increased support for opposition parties. -- Robert Orttung in Moscow ILLARIONOV: COMMUNIST ECONOMIC PROGRAM COULD BE EFFECTIVE POLITICALLY. . . The director of the Institute of Economic Analysis, Andrei Illarionov, on 30 May argued that even though the Communists' recently published economic program has "numerous factual errors," it could be effective at winning votes because it repeats many myths that are commonly circulated in society. He argued that the program reflects a "primitive" understanding of the social processes taking place in the country today. He pointed out that on the one hand, the Communists criticize the subsidies that are granted to other CIS countries, while on the other, they call for voluntary reintegration of the CIS which would require large subsidies to attract former Soviet republics. -- Robert Orttung in Moscow . . .BUT MAY THWART RUSSIA'S EFFORTS TO JOIN WTO. Senior officials at the World Trade Organization (WTO) say the unveiling of the Communist Party's economic program--which calls for restoring the state's leading role in the economy, extending subsidies to industry and agriculture, and increasing trade protectionism--may thwart Russia's efforts to join the organization, Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported on 30 May. They stress that if the Communists win the election, there will be little chance to grant Russia WTO membership and "this whole exercise will be dropped." The third session of the WTO working group that is dealing with Russia's application is concentrating on intellectual rights, services, and trade aspects of investment policy. The head of Russia's delegation at the talks, First Deputy Foreign Economic Relations Minister Georgii Gabunia, emphasized the importance of conducting the negotiations in "a constructive atmosphere" on the eve of the presidential election. -- Natalia Gurushina COMMENTATOR: GRACHEV EMERGES VICTORIOUS. Writing in Segodnya on 30 May, military commentator Pavel Felgengauer said Defense Minister Pavel Grachev had "triumphed" over his opponents at the 29 May Moscow meeting of top military officials (see OMRI Daily Digest, 30 May 1996). Felgengauer said Grachev's harsh attacks on Col. Gen. Boris Gromov, delivered at the meeting while President Yeltsin sat silently behind him on the podium, show that Yeltsin does not plan to remove Grachev immediately, as many had speculated. Grachev suits Yeltsin, added Felgengauer, because the defense minister is so unpopular and isolated that he must remain obedient to the president, his only political supporter. Nevertheless, Felgengauer said Yeltsin may still decide to jettison Grachev before the election. Despite Yeltsin's apparent support for Grachev, Gromov continued to campaign for the president, addressing an election rally in Tambov on 30 May, according to ITAR-TASS. -- Scott Parrish LOCAL SELF GOVERNMENT ELECTIONS NO LATER THAN FALL 1996. The Constitutional Court has ruled that the Russian local legislative and executive bodies must be elected no later than the fall of this year, ITAR-TASS and ORT reported on 30 May. The August 1995 law on self government, which was passed by the Duma and signed by the president, requires elections to be held by March 1996. However, President Yeltsin has challenged the Duma's authority to set specific dates for the local elections. -- Anna Paretskaya RUSSIAN-ESTONIAN POLLING STATION DISPUTE. Russia may file a protest with the Council of Europe over Estonia's refusal to open supplementary polling stations for Russian citizens to vote in the upcoming Russian presidential election, Radio Rossii reported on 30 May. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Valentin Matvienko said Russia views the Estonian decision as a violation of the human rights of Russian citizens living in Estonia, many of whom may not be able to reach the Russian Embassy in Tallinn or the consulates in Narva and Tartu. These are currently the only places in Estonia where polling stations will be opened. Estonian officials, however, have expressed willingness to allow additional polling stations but only if Moscow provides Tallinn with a list of Russian citizens living in Estonia which substantiates the need for them. Russian diplomats have categorically rejected this Estonian request, triggering the current deadlock. -- Scott Parrish RUSSIAN VIEWS OF TURKEY. Turkey represents a part of the external threat to Russia's security, Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev said at the opening of a conference of leading military personnel, according to Krasnaya zvezda and other Russian media on 29 and 30 May. While Grachev's remarks mainly focused on Russia's displeasure with the prospective eastward expansion of NATO, he argued that "a number of West European countries and Turkey" are seeking to thwart CIS integration. In a thinly veiled reference to Turkey, he noted that "strategic aims" were being pursued in efforts to reduce Russia's influence in the Black Sea, Transcaucasus, and Central Asia--areas in which Turkey has officially claimed an interest. He went on to suggest that Turkey is attempting to hinder Russia's efforts to integrate these countries more closely into the CIS, and is even encouraging them to adopt a hostile attitude toward Russia. -- Lowell Bezanis RUSSIAN PASSENGER TRAINS RE-ROUTED TO AVOID UKRAINE. Russian passenger trains bound for popular Black Sea resorts like Sochi will be rerouted this summer to avoid passing through Ukraine, ITAR-TASS reported on 30 May. Beginning on 2 June, most trains heading to the Russian Black Sea coast from Moscow and points north will be routed through Voronezh in order to avoid lengthy delays caused by customs and passport controls at the Russian-Ukrainian border, which had to be crossed twice on the previous route. Railway Ministry officials said the new route will take less time, even though it is longer. -- Scott Parrish PARLIAMENTARY DELEGATION IN MONGOLIA. Russian Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev and Mongolian Prime Minister Puntsagiyn Jasray signed a bilateral parliamentary cooperation agreement in Ulaanbaatar on 30 May, ITAR-TASS reported. The agreement calls for regular exchanges of legislators and local officals from the two countries, and also commits both to harmonizing economic legislation in order to facilitate trade. Seleznev expressed satisfaction that Mongolia views Russia as a "strategic partner," and praised Ulaanbaatar for "doing everything possible" to strengthen the Russian-Mongolian partnership. -- Scott Parrish WORLD BANK GIVES RUSSIA $89 MILLION LOAN TO DEVELOP FINANCIAL MARKETS. The World Bank has agreed to open a $89 million credit line to Russia to support the development of the country's financial markets, AFP reported on 30 May. The credit is payable in 17 years with a five-year grace period. Part of the loan will be spent on improving the markets' regulatory infrastructure and on supplying telecommunications and computer equipment. The remaining money will be used to create a computerized system at the Finance Ministry for monitoring the issuance of government securities. -- Natalia Gurushina CORRECTION: In the OMRI Daily Digest of 28 May, the item "Constitutional Court Begins Review of Organized Crime Decree," the second sentence should have read: ...permitting suspects to be held for up to 30 days without charges.. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA ALIEV'S CRITICISM OF TURKEY. Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev told a conference in Baku that some groups in Turkey sympathize with unnamed armed groups and individuals in Azerbaijan that are determined to undermine the country's stability, Zaman reported on 31 May. He noted that these Turkish groups are injurious to Turkish-Azerbaijani relations. Aliev made his remarks at a conference organized by the Turkish Economic Research Foundation, entitled "Azerbaijan-Turkey Economic Cooperation." Aliev called on Turkish businessmen to put profit "second" in considering whether to invest in Azerbaijan. -- Lowell Bezanis STALEMATE OVER KOMSOMOLSKAYA PRAVDA NEGOTIATIONS IN KAZAKHSTAN. Judge Iraida Fadina's efforts to resolve the dispute between the editors of Komsomolskaya pravda and the Procurator General's Office (see OMRI Daily Digest, 30 May 1996) have been inconclusive so far, ITAR-TASS reported on 31 May. Fadina said the court hearing, scheduled for 7 June, can be revoked only if the Procurator General's Office withdraws its petition for a ban on the newspaper or if Komsomolskaya pravda issues a public apology. Komsomolskaya pravda denies allegations by the Union of Writers of Kazakhstan and the procuracy that it incited ethnic tension by publishing the views of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. The chairman of the government's National Agency for Press and Mass Media, Altynbek Sarsenbayev, has endorsed the ban on the Kazakhstani edition of the Russian newspaper. -- Bhavna Dave KINKEL VISITS UZBEKISTAN, KAZAKHSTAN. German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel arrived in Almaty after a one-day visit to Tashkent, Russian and Western media reported on 31 March. Kinkel, who is accompanied by 20 entrepreneurs and a parliamentary delegation, described Uzbekistan as a "peaceful center in Central Asia." In Uzbekistan, Kinkel signed economic cooperation agreements in the field of chemical engineering, communications, agriculture, and energy, and agreed to take measures to improve the investment climate. Germany is among the top trading partners for both Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. -- 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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