|Words that open our eyes to the world are always the easiest to remember. - Ryszard Kapuscinski|
No. 128, Part I, 2 July 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 HEALTH ISSUE CLOUDS ELECTION DAY. President Boris Yeltsin's appearances on Russian television 1 July gave no explanation of why he had missed four days of crucial campaigning before the 3 July runoff. He looked weak, leading to increased suspicion that he had suffered a relapse of the heart disease that put him in the hospital twice last year. Yeltsin's aides, including Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, gave superficial assurances that everything was fine. Generally, the pro- Yeltsin media have barely mentioned his sickness. However, communist challenger Gennadii Zyuganov pressed the issue, demanding an official report of Yeltsin's health, Reuters reported. -- Robert Orttung YELTSIN, ZYUGANOV WIND UP CAMPAIGNS. Yeltsin, in his last televised speech before balloting begins, on 1 July stressed the need to participate in the elections, according to NTV. Nezavisimaya gazeta the same day criticized the president for losing the initiative to his challenger Gennadii Zyuganov in the second round campaign. While Yeltsin merely stressed the need to vote, the new Secretary of the Security Council Aleksandr Lebed appeared everywhere, giving the impression that he was the candidate, the paper complained. Zyuganov addressed voters on ORT with a scathing attack on Yeltsin's record, criticizing him for the loss of Ukraine, the Chechen war, and reducing 80% of Russian citizens to poverty, among other things. -- Robert Orttung TsIK DENOUNCES EARLY RELEASE OF RESULTS IN KAZAKHSTAN. Central Electoral Commission (TsIK) Chairman Nikolai Ryabov announced that he will file legal charges against the people responsible for prematurely publishing the results of second round voting in Kazakhstan, ITAR-TASS reported. The electoral commission in Almaty reported that President Boris Yeltsin had won 71% of the vote among Russians living in Kazakhstan, while Gennadii Zyuganov took only 24%, Ekho Moskvy reported. Russians there voted on 30 June because 3 July will not be a holiday. Ryabov said that the early release of voting results violated the right to a secret ballot and TsIK member Raif Bektagirov called the journalists who reported the information incompetent for "blindly passing on whatever comes [their] way." Voting also took place in Latvia and Estonia where Zyuganov did well in the first round, but those results have not yet been made public. The TsIK will not announce any results until all polling stations are closed. -- Robert Orttung ORT REPLACES LAST COMMUNIST AD. Russian Public TV (ORT) replaced a clip prepared by filmmaker Stanislav Govorukhin, intended for the Communists' last free airtime slot on 1 July, with a Zyuganov speech broadcast earlier in the day, ITAR-TASS reported. ORT Deputy General Producer Andrei Vasiliev explained that the broadcaster had no choice because the Govorukhin clip was 10 minutes instead of the five minutes allotted by law. ORT had asked the Communists to pay for the additional five minutes, but they did not transfer money into the ORT bank account before airtime. The communists criticized what they saw as ORT's refusal to run their ad. Vasiliev argued that ORT was acting within the confines of the law and denied that its decision was based on political motives. The station's news coverage is heavily biased toward Yeltsin. -- Robert Orttung LEBED: "I AM NOT A FULL DEMOCRAT." In remarks to journalists on 2 July, Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed said "I do not consider myself a full democrat, I am a semi-democrat," ITAR-TASS reported. Lebed expressed a preference for a strong presidency, saying that "parliamentary democracy is not [good] for this country." He argued that he was seeking additional powers "not for my personal interests, but for solving the problems of the security of the state." -- Peter Rutland LEBED DISCUSSES CRIME WITH LUZHKOV. Lebed met with Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov on 1 July to discuss a draft decree on combating crime in the capital, ITAR-TASS and Russian Public TV reported. The meeting was also attended by senior Interior Ministry officials, acting director of the Federal Security Service Nikolai Kovalev, Moscow Procurator Sergei Gerasimov, and Moscow City Court Chairwoman Zoya Korneva. Luzhkov said the president, who ordered the meeting, will hear a report on the document on 8 July. He promised that the decree would tackle problems such as the understaffing of courts and procurators' offices without restricting human rights. One of Lebed's key campaign pledges was to crackdown on crime and corruption, but his preference for tough methods has aroused concern about human rights violations. -- Penny Morvant ZHIRINOVSKY WILL VOTE AGAINST BOTH. Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky announced that he will vote against both candidates in the runoff, AFP reported on 1 July. He won more than four million votes in the first round, 5.7% of those voting, and expects that his voters will follow his lead. Zhirinovsky had ruled out any kind of alliance with the communists and set conditions for a coalition with Yeltsin that the president would never accept. -- Robert Orttung EXPLOSION AT GROZNY POLLING STATION. Windows of nearby buildings were blown out and many residents injured by flying glass after an explosion at a polling station in Grozny during the early morning of 2 July, ITAR- TASS reported. Voting in the second round of the Russian presidential election opens in Chechnya on 2 July. Four Russian-Chechen working groups convened on 1 July to discuss issues connected with the implementation of the 10 June peace agreement but made only negligible progress. -- Liz Fuller JAPANESE PREACHER EXPELLED FROM RUSSIA. Kenjiro Aoki, a preacher for the Reverend Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church, was expelled from Russia on 1 July for repeated visa violations, Russian and Western agencies reported. Aoki, who was first charged in April, pleaded guilty in the Tatarstan capital Kazan to charges of breaking Russia's passport regime, which still requires foreigners to list places where they visit. His departure comes days after Yeltsin's new security chief Lebed spoke out against the proliferation of religious sects in Russia (see OMRI Daily Digest, 28 June 1996). The U.S. State Department described Lebed's derogatory remarks about the Mormons as "worrisome." Many other Russian politicians and Orthodox Church leaders have expressed concern about the activities of cults and sects. -- Penny Morvant JEWISH LEADER DENIED VISA. Russian authorities refused to grant a visa to David Harris, director of the American Jewish Congress, who wanted to participate in a congress on Jews of the former Soviet Union in St Petersburg, AFP reported on 1 July. The refusal came despite intervention on Harris's behalf by the U.S. State Department. There have been several reports of harassment of Jewish Agency branches in Russia in recent months. Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed told reporters on 2 July that he intends to introduce a stricter visa regime for foreigners intent on visiting Russia, including citizens from former Soviet republics. He suggested countries will be graded by the extent of their "friendliness" towards Russia. -- Peter Rutland YELTSIN'S FORMER ENVOY IN STAVROPOL FACING CRIMINAL PROCEEDINGS. Procurators in Stavropol Krai have launched criminal proceedings against Aleksei Kulyakovskii, Yeltsin's former special representative in the region, ITAR-TASS reported on 1 July. Kulyakovskii has been charged with illegal financial dealings, and investigators have said that they may turn to law enforcers abroad for help in locating accounts in his name in foreign banks. Yeltsin sacked Kulyakovskii in late May for misusing public funds intended for the development of the spa resort Mineralnye Vody (see OMRI Daily Digest, 24 May 1996). -- Penny Morvant RUSSIAN MUFTIS BACK REFORMS. Russian Muslim religious leaders, at a conference on "Democracy and Islam's destiny in Russia," have supported the course of reforms and President Yeltsin as its guarantor, ITAR-TASS and Russian TV (RTR) reported on 1 July. At the conference, they established the Council of Russia's Muftis which aims to protect Muslims' rights and represent their interests in state structures. Meanwhile, a new political movement, the Muslims of Tatarstan, has been constituted in the Tatar capital Kazan, Segodnya reported on 28 June. The movement's leader, Mufti Khazrat Gabdulla, declared that it would not campaign for any presidential candidate, but be involved in politics in general. -- Anna Paretskaya BOMB BLAST PREVENTED IN NORTH OSSETIYA. A major blast was prevented on 1 July at a transport hub in the North Caucasus, a spokesman for the Federal Security Service (FSB) told ITAR-TASS. A team of local and federal security officers located a powerful explosive device planted at the Prokhladny railway station between Mozdok and Vladikavkaz in North Ossetiya. The device was reportedly programmed to explode during the rush hour. The team had been investigating the Nalchik bus explosion, which killed five people on 28 June. -- Penny Morvant FLEET PRACTICES MULTIPLE MISSILE LAUNCHES. The Pacific Fleet, for the first time, launched ballistic missiles simultaneously from "several nuclear submarines," a spokesman told ITAR-TASS on 1 July. The launches took place during a 28 June exercise, and were "recognized as successful," the spokesman said. The aim of the exercise was said to be to test "the actual combat readiness of the nuclear deterrence forces of the Russian Navy." Last week a navy official announced that the Navy would begin receiving a new generation of strategic submarines beginning in 2002. -- Doug Clarke CHERNOMYRDIN UPBEAT ON ECONOMY. At a press conference on 1 July Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin said that inflation was only 1.2% in June, down from 1.6% in May, ITAR-TASS reported. Inflation cumulated to 16.5% for the first half of 1996. The same day Chernomyrdin addressed the sixth meeting of the Consultative Council on foreign investments. Chernomyrdin tried to reassure the investors that Russia has achieved a degree of economic stability. Interviewed in Vek on 21 June, Economics Minister Yevgenii Yasin stated that foreign investment for the whole of 1995 amounted to only $230 million, but rose to $884 million in the first quarter of 1996. This figure seems rather high, and may include pledges as opposed to actual fund transfers. The figure did not include some $2.5 billion that foreigners have spent buying government securities. -- Peter Rutland LEADING ECONOMISTS CALL FOR GREATER STATE ROLE. Nezavisimaya gazeta on 1 July published an open letter from leading Russian and American economists, including Leonid Abalkin, Stanislav Shatalin, and Nobel prize winners Vassily Leontieff, James Tobin, and Lawrence Klein. They argued that the government should play a greater role in the transitional economy, since laissez-faire policies have failed to achieve the desired results. -- Natalia Gurushina in Moscow NEW RUBLE EXCHANGE RATE TAKES EFFECT. The new "inclined exchange rate" formally took effect on 1 July, ITAR-TASS reported. The Central Bank announced the day's exchange rate to be 5,119 rubles to the dollar. The new inclined rate system, similar to a "crawling peg," was introduced informally on 16 May, and replaces the "ruble corridor" introduced on 5 July 1995, when the band was set at 4,300-4,900 rubles to the dollar. The new system fixes the currency band at 5,000-5,600 rubles to the dollar for the next six months, with the Central Bank announcing an official rate each day based on the market rate. The system allows a gradual devaluation of the ruble while providing some predictability to the exchange rate. -- Peter Rutland TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA EUROPEAN PARLIAMENTARIANS TOUR TRANSCAUCASUS CAPITALS. Antonios Tracatelis, the head of a European Parliament delegation, told a press conference in Yerevan at the end of a tour of Transcaucasus capitals that a joint commission will be established to supervise implementation of the cooperation and partnership agreement signed between Armenia and the EU, ITAR-TASS reported on 1 July. Tracatelis expressed the hope that a fair solution could be found to the Karabakh conflict which was the subject of discussion in all three capitals. -- Liz Fuller RIGHT MONOPOLIZES TURKISH TIES TO CENTRAL ASIA. Turkey's ultranationalists and religious right are well organized and represented in the Turkophone republics of Central Asia and Azerbaijan, according to parliamentarian Ahmet Ketenci, Cumhuriyet reported on 1 July. The center-left deputy said three groups are active in Azerbaijan: those connected with the pan-Turkist MHP (National Action Party of Alparslan Turkes), the Islamist RP (Welfare Party of now Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan) and those linked with Imam Fetullah Gulen (a controversial cleric also known as Fetullah Hoca, who is involved in establishing dozens of middle schools in the former Soviet Union and the Balkans). -- Lowell Bezanis NIYAZOV ON RUSSIAN ELECTIONS, STATE ORDERS. Turkmenistan's President Saparmurad Niyazov has adopted a neutral posture on Russia's presidential election, according to a 30 June RIA agency report monitored by the BBC. Niyazov made it clear that Ashgabat seeks "good- neighborly" relations with Moscow whoever is elected president. He also pointed out that the two countries "don't have a single disputed or vague issue" between them. Meanwhile, on 28 June Niyazov decreed that private farmers are no longer required to sell their produce to the state at regulated prices, ITAR-TASS reported on 30 June. The BBC monitored report indicated that "strategic" types of produce (food, grain, and cotton) may only be sold on the domestic market while others may be exported. The ruling applies only to agricultural produce grown outside the state sector. -- Lowell Bezanis OPPOSITION DEMOCRATS WIN BIG IN MONGOLIAN ELECTIONS. The 30 June elections to the Mongolian parliament, the Great Hural, proved a surprise as the Democratic Union (DU) Coalition took 50 of 76 seats, Western media reported. The Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party (MPRP), which had been in power since 1921 and still consisted of former communists, was expected to maintain its majority in the Hural, but inflation and unemployment persuaded voters to opt for change. The MPRP took 70 of the 76 seats in the 1992 elections. Among a field of 304 candidates the DU hoped simply to get 23 seats, enough for veto power. Former US Secretary of State James Baker was an observer at the elections and said Mongolia will be seen as having "successfully embraced democracy," according to AFP. Voter turnout was high at 87.3 %.-- Bruce Pannier [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Steve Kettle ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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