|Comedy is an escape, not from truth but from despair; a narrow escape into faith. - Christopher Fry|
No. 113, Part I, 11 June 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 AGREEMENT REACHED AT CHE-CHEN TALKS. Russian and Chechen delegations on 10 June reached agreement during talks in Nazran on the postponement of the election to a new People's Assembly--currently scheduled for 16 June--until after the withdrawal of all Russian troops, Russian and Western agencies reported. This agreement removed the last remaining obstacle to the signing of two separate protocols by Russian Nationalities Minister Vyacheslav Mikhailov and Chechen Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov--one on the withdrawal of Russian troops by late August and the surrender of weapons by Chechen militants, and the second on the release of all hostages and prisoners of war. On 11 June, Russian forces began pulling out of the mountainous regions of southern Chechnya, according to AFP. Pro-Moscow First Deputy Chechen Prime Minister Nikolai Koshman criticized the decision to postpone the election, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Liz Fuller YELTSIN REJECTS BILL ON TRANSFER OF POWER. Presidential legal adviser Mikhail Krasnov said that the president would not sign the proposed law on the transfer of power on 10 June, ITAR-TASS reported. Krasnov warned that the Communists plan to use the law as a way to inaugurate Zyuganov as president even if he does not win the election. He also criticized the bill as having a "political character" as witnessed by its appearance on the eve of the election. According to the bill, the newly elected president takes over 30 days after the results are announced and will have a say in the last decisions of the outgoing president. -- Robert Orttung FILATOV PROPOSES MOVING RUNOFF TO A WEEKDAY. President Boris Yeltsin's main campaign leader, Sergei Filatov, said that the idea of holding the second round of the presidential election on Wednesday, 3 July instead of Sunday, 7 July is currently being "considered," ITAR-TASS reported. The Central Electoral Commission is now planning on holding the runoff on 7 July, but the electoral law only specifies that a second round must be held within two weeks after the official results of the first round are announced. Filatov is concerned that many of Yeltsin's supporters might not return from their dachas to vote, while the committed communist electorate is more likely to turn out. -- Robert Orttung ZYUGANOV PRAISES STALIN. Communist presidential candidate Gen-nadii Zyuganov told the Hungarian newspaper Magyar Hirlap that "if Stalin had lived five or six years longer, the Soviet Union would have been undefeatable for ages," ITAR-TASS reported on 10 June. Zyuganov made similar comments in his book Beyond the Horizon. When asked how many people died under Stalin, he said that "today, it is possible, that more citizens bear the slaves' yoke in camps than in Stalin's time." He also blamed the repression of the period not on Stalin, who was Georgian, but on "elements foreign to the [Russian] nation," such as Genrikh Yagoda, Lavrenti Beria, Lev Mekhlis, and Lazar Kaganovich. Zyuganov has been careful during the campaign to present himself as a moderate, and such reported statements play into the hands of President Yeltsin's propagandists, who are trying to portray Zyuganov and his team as extremists. -- Robert Orttung TsIK, YELTSIN TO COMBAT FALSIFICATION. Central Electoral Commission Chairman Nikolai Ryabov said that he is tightening the procedures used for voting outside of a polling place, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 June. Mobile urns can only come to a voter's residence if he submits a written request. The ballots will be considered invalid if observers are not allowed to accompany the urns. Yeltsin's advisers have charged that the Communists used the mobile ballot boxes to increase their vote in the 1995 Duma election. Meanwhile, Yeltsin's campaign organization announced that it will conduct a parallel count of voting returns from all 93,000 polling places on 16 June, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 June. The Communists have already announced plans to hold their own parallel count. Filatov said his group would monitor both the Communists and the TsIK. -- Robert Orttung FIVE CANDIDATES APPEAR IN ROUND-TABLE DISCUSSION. Vlad-imir Zhirinovsky, Aman Tuleev, Vladimir Bryntsalov, Yurii Vlasov, and Martin Shakkum took part in a round-table discussion broadcast on Russian TV (RTR) on 10 June. There were no heated exchanges among the participants, as their criticism was mostly directed at President Yeltsin and his policies. All the candidates promised to revive production, provide social guarantees to the population, and fight corruption. In keeping with his role as Gennadii Zyuganov's backup candidate, Tuleev asked voters to support the "popular-patriotic bloc" rather than himself personally. -- Laura Belin in Moscow PRIMAKOV: RUSSIA WILL NOT RELENT ON NATO. In an interview with Komsomolskaya pravda published on 11 June, Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov denied reports that Russia has softened its opposition on NATO expansion. Reacting to Western commentary on his 4 June meeting with NATO foreign ministers in Berlin, Primakov said Russia's position on NATO enlargement remained unchanged, and repeated that Moscow could not accept the expansion of NATO military infrastructure into areas near Russia. He reiterated, however, that it is still possible to "agree" on a compromise resolution. If a compromise is not found, Primakov said Russia will be forced to take countermeasures, including forming a CIS military alliance and revising arms control agreements. But he expressed optimism that Western leaders are increasingly "coming to understand the importance of the Russian factor." -- Scott Parrish COURT ACQUITS MAN ACCUSED OF MURDERING ORTHODOX PRIEST. A Moscow Oblast court has acquitted Igor Bushnev of murdering reformist Russian Orthodox priest Aleksandr Men in September 1990, Russian and Western agencies reported. The judge presiding over the court in Sergiev Posad ruled on 10 June that the defendant had made a false confession under duress. The regional Procurator's Office will now have to reopen the investigation. Bushnev's lawyer alleged on 5 June that, under pressure to solve the case, law enforcement officers headed by Vladimir Kolesnikov, now deputy interior minister, had forced Bushnev to make a confession. Bushnev twice admitted to killing Men but later retracted his statements. Men's son had long publicly expressed doubts about Bushnev's guilt. -- Penny Morvant FOOD RATIONING TO BE ABOLISHED IN ULYANOVSK. An Ulyan-ovsk Oblast official said on 10 June that the system of food rationing still in operation in the region will be abolished during the second half of the year, ITAR-TASS reported. Ulyanovsk, a communist stronghold, is the last area to retain coupons that allow residents to buy subsidized food products. Thanks to the system, the oblast has the lowest cost of living in the country, but wages are also low. The number of commodities covered by the system and the degree of subsidization have already been reduced because of the financial difficulties of local companies, including the Ulyanovsk Motor Works, whose contributions to the regional budget financed the scheme. Low-income groups will now receive benefits directly. -- Penny Morvant SBERBANK BEGINS TO COMPENSATE SAVERS. The Russian Savings Bank (Sberbank) began on 10 June to pay compensation to savers whose deposits were devalued due to the high inflation triggered by economic reforms, NTV reported. Under a May presidential decree, people born in 1916 or earlier are now entitled to compensation of up to 1 million rubles ($200) for Sberbank accounts opened before 20 June 1991. Deposits (up to a maximum of 1,000 1991 rubles) are being indexed according to a sliding scale ranging from 600 times for accounts closed in 1992 to 1,000 times for accounts still open or closed in 1996. The compensation does not fully allow for inflation, which was more than 2,500% in 1992 alone. RTR quoted Sberbank President Andrei Kazmin as estimating that payments could total 4.5 trillion rubles. The question of how to compensate younger savers has still to be resolved. -- Penny Morvant CENTRAL BANK PROMISES TO TIGHTEN MONETARY POLICY. Central Bank Chairman Sergei Dubinin said on 10 June that the bank will take steps to neutralize the inflationary impact of transferring $1 billion from the bank's reserves to the budget, ITAR-TASS reported. The measures will include raising reserve requirements on banks' 30-day deposits from 18% to 20%, reducing the limits on banks' open currency positions to 20%, and suspending lombard credit auctions. Dubinin said the Central Bank has boosted the money supply by a total of 25 trillion rubles ($5 billion) over the last three months, including 13 trillion in the last two weeks. To keep down inflation, the bank sold $3 billion of its foreign exchange reserves, reducing them from $16 billion to $12.5 billion. -- Natalia Gurushina PROBLEM OF ENTERPRISE DEBT PERSISTS. First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets, speaking in Irkutsk on 11 June, said that 35% of industrial enterprises and 59% of transport firms are now technically bankrupt, ITAR-TASS reported. By the end of April, indebtedness in the economy totaled 719 trillion rubles ($140 million)--about 40% of GDP--of which 314 trillion rubles are overdue. Late payments to the budget totaled 67 trillion rubles by the end of March, including 26 trillion rubles to the federal budget. Western economists differ over whether inter-firm debt is really a crushing burden for the Russian economy; even developed market economies have inter-firm credits of around 15% of GDP. -- Peter Rutland TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA GEORGIAN OPPOSITION PARTY BLASTS CFE TREATY QUOTA. The National Democratic Party of Georgia has released a statement categorically opposing the Georgian Defense Ministry's decision to give Russia half of Georgia's conventional weapons quota under the CFE treaty, and urging parliament to reject the law on the deployment of Russian military bases in the country, BGI news agency reported on 8 June. The statement charges that such decisions are the prerogative of the president and the parliament, not the military. The Georgian Defense Ministry press center defended the decision, saying the state lacks funds to purchase arms and under the plan Russia will provide military equipment for Georgia's half of the quota. (The CFE treaty sets Georgia's quota at 220 tanks, 220 armored vehicles, 285 artillery installations, 100 planes, and 50 helicopters.) -- Irakli Tsereteli TRANSCAUCASIAN INTELLIGENCE, MILITARY ROUND-UP. Following the 6 June visit of Russian Foreign Intelligence Service Director Vyacheslav Trubnikov to Baku, Azerbaijani National Security Minister Namig Abbasov said the two sides had reached a "verbal" agreement to cooperate, according to a 9 June Interfax report monitored by the BBC. Cooperation will involve the coordination of intelligence activities, staff training, and exchanges of information, Turan reported on 7 June. Meanwhile, a delegation from Tur-key's National Intelligence Organization held talks with officials of Georgia's Security Ministry on 7 June, according to an Iprinda report monitored by the BBC on the same day. Also, Azerbaijani Defense Minister Sefer Abiev and Turkish Chief of Staff Hakki Karadayi signed a military agreement on technical, scientific, and educational cooperation in Ankara on 10 June, Turkish media reported. -- Lowell Bezanis KAZAKHSTANI PARLIAMENT DELAYS CRUCIAL VOTE. The Kazakh-stani parliament on 10 June postponed by 48 hours voting on an amendment to the pension law, raising fears of a no-confidence vote in the government, Russian and Western media reported the same day. A second failure to pass the bill, which was already rejected on 23 May, would constitutionally require President Nursultan Nazar-bayev to either dissolve parliament or dismiss the government. The amendment would raise by three years the age of retirement in Kazakhstan, from 60 to 63 for men and 55 to 58 for women. Lawmakers apparently fear a loss of public support if they vote in favor of the bill. There is one pensioner for every two workers in Kazakhstan, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. -- Bruce Pannier KAZAKHSTAN UNHAPPY WITH CHINESE NUCLEAR TEST. The Kazakhstani Foreign Ministry on 10 June expressed its concern over a Chinese nuclear test conducted on 8 June at the Lop Nor testing area, Reuters reported. Russia and Mongolia also voiced their displeasure at the test especially as the Chinese had stated their intention to join the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) just two days earlier. China announced it will conduct one more test in September. -- Bruce Pannier UN NEAR END OF THE ROPE IN TAJIKISTAN. UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros Ghali on 10 June questioned "the sincerity and intentions" of the Tajik opposition and government in resolving the civil conflict in Tajikistan, now entering its fifth year, Reuters and AFP reported. Ghali noted the situation had deteriorated and is now at its worst stage since the civil war in 1992. The UN Mission of Observers in Tajikistan (UNMOT) has been denied access to areas held by both sides and a patrol came under sniper fire in May, and later a UN team was detained for three hours and robbed in an area under rebel control. The opposition denies responsibility. Meanwhile, the new UN special envoy to Tajikistan, Gerd Merrem, announced that talks between the two sides could resume in July. -- 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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