|Old age is the most unexpected of all the things that happen to a man. - Leon Trotsky|
No. 231, Part I, 2 December 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 OMRI Daily Digest, and other information about OMRI, are available through OMRI's WWW pages: http://www.omri.cz/Index.html RUSSIA DUMA BACKS AWAY FROM CONFRONTATION. The State Duma leadership decided on 29 November not to hold a no-confidence vote on Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's government or initiate impeachment proceedings against President Boris Yeltsin, Kommersant-Daily reported on 30 November. The lower house did not even succeed in adopting a resolution on the matter. The legitimacy of the votes was called into question when it was announced that 42 Communist deputies did not have their voting cards with them. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov charged that Presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais has set up his own government in the Kremlin which must be removed. -- Robert Orttung YABLOKO SLAMS YELTSIN, CALLS FOR DEMOCRATIC UNITY. After blasting the Yeltsin administration as a dangerous oligarchic clan system that is pushing the country toward fascism, Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii called for all "democratic" groups to unite at a 30 November party congress, NTV reported. He also said Yabloko would be gradually transformed from a "movement" into a political party. Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev attended the congress and expressed his support for Yabloko. Sergei Belyaev, the leader of the pro-government Our Home Is Russia Duma faction, also attended the meeting and noted that his bloc could find some common ground with Yabloko, but that the two groups have differing opinions on the authorities currently in power. During the 1995 Duma campaign, Yavlinskii rejected all attempts by other groups to ally with him. He also failed to form a "third-force" alliance with Aleksandr Lebed during the 1996 presidential campaign. -- Robert Orttung YELTSIN REJECTS LAW ON AMENDING THE CONSTITUTION. President Yeltsin on 29 November rejected a Duma bill that would have made it easier to amend the constitution, ITAR-TASS reported. The bill stipulated that if the members of the Russian Federation do not act on a proposed amendment within six months, they are assumed to be in support of it. Constitutional amendments require the support of two-thirds of all members of the Duma, three-fourths of the Federation Council, and two- thirds of all legislatures in the 89 republics and regions. -- Robert Orttung GROUND FORCES COMMANDER SACKED. President Yeltsin dismissed Army Gen. Vladimir Semenov from his position as commander of the Ground Forces on 30 November. The order accused Semenov of "activities incompatible with his post," which "discredit the honor and dignity of a serviceman." According to AFP, Semenov termed his sacking "completely unexpected," adding that no "convincing" charges of misconduct or corruption had been leveled against him by the Defense Ministry. A Ground Forces spokesman expressed "astonishment" at the justification for Semenov's dismissal. -- Scott Parrish OIL COMPANY BUYS INTO IZVESTIYA. LUKoil-Garant, a pension fund and subsidiary of the Russian oil company LUKoil, is set to buy a 20% stake in the daily newspaper Izvestiya, Segodnya reported on 28 November. According to the fund's general manager, Mikhail Berezhnoi, LUKoil- Garant plans to invest a considerable sum of money into the newspaper, Kommersant-Daily reported the next day. According to an unnamed source, the company has already bought 20% of Izvestiya's shares from Dialog- bank and another 5% from foreign shareholders. A LUKoil company representative has reportedly joined the newspaper's editorial board. -- Anna Paretskaya in Moscow CHECHEN ELECTION PROSPECTS. The Chechen leadership on 30 November failed to agree on a single candidate for the republic's presidential election scheduled for 27 January 1997, ITAR-TASS reported. Also on 30 November, Russian Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin told ITAR-TASS that Moscow will invite observers from the Council of Europe and the OSCE to monitor the election. In an interview published in a Grozny newspaper and summarized by ITAR-TASS on 1 December, former Russian parliament speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov also advocated OSCE monitoring, but declined to say whether he would run as a presidential candidate. Meanwhile, a Russian presidential spokesman told ITAR-TASS on 29 November that the withdrawal of Russian troops from the republic will be completed by 20 January 1997, but the commander of Russian Interior Ministry forces in Chechnya, Col.-Gen. Anatolii Shkirko, said on 30 November that no deadline has been set. -- Liz Fuller ELECTION RESULTS CANCELED IN AMUR OBLAST. An Amur Oblast court ruled on 28 November to annul the run-off results of the oblast's gubernatorial election, citing massive forgery, Russian media reported. On 22 September, incumbent Yurii Lyashko lost the second round to the chairman of the regional legislature, opposition candidate Anatolii Belonogov, by 189 votes. The investigation conducted by the regional Procurator's Office found that many voters' signatures were falsified. Lyashko will stay in the office until a new election scheduled for 27 March 1997, the same day as the oblast legislative elections. A similar case is being heard in Rostov Oblast, where the opposition claims that the 29 September gubernatorial poll results were forged by incumbent Vladimir Chub, who received 62% of the vote to the opposition candidate Leonid Ivanchenko's 20%. -- Anna Paretskaya in Moscow THREE GOVERNORS SECURE RE-ELECTION . . . The incumbent governors of Samara, Ivanovo, and Kamchatka oblasts were re-elected on 1 December, according to preliminary results released by Radio Rossii and Russian Public TV (ORT) the next day. Konstantin Titov of Samara won re-election with about 60% of the vote, twice as much as his rival, regional Communist Party leader Valentin Romanov. Vladislav Tikhomirov of Ivanovo Oblast finished first with about 50% of the vote. Vladimir Biryukov, the incumbent in Kamchatka Oblast, defeated Boris Oleinikov by a margin of about 60% in the gubernatorial run-off. The incumbent in Nenets Autonomous Okrug, Vladimir Khabarov, won more than 40% of the vote, and will face his opponent in a second round. -- Anna Paretskaya in Moscow . . . WHILE TWO LOSE. The chairman of the regional legislature in Altai Krai, opposition candidate Aleksandr Surikov, defeated incumbent Lev Korshunov in a run-off vote, Russian media reported. Surikov scored about 49% of the vote, while Korshunov received 46%, about the same level of support they received in the first round. The former chairman of the Murmansk Oblast Soviet, Yurii Yevdokimov, defeated incumbent Yevgenii Komarov by a margin of 4%. Yevdokimov, who was supported by Aleksandr Lebed's Honor and Motherland movement, won about 12% less than Komarov in the first round two weeks ago. -- Anna Paretskaya in Moscow RUSSIA STEPS UP CAMPAIGN AGAINST NATO ENLARGEMENT. On the eve of the OSCE summit in Lisbon, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, who will head the Russian delegation in Lisbon, said on his departure, "we are categorically opposed to NATO's eastward enlargement," and called for bolstering the role of the OSCE instead. In a 28 November article in Nezavisimaya gazeta, Defense Minister Igor Rodionov, generally a moderate on the expansion issue, blasted NATO for refusing to sign a charter with Moscow before accepting new members. He threatened that if the alliance expands, Russia will consider changing its military doctrine, seeking new allies, withdrawing from the 1990 CFE arms control agreement, targeting nuclear weapons on Eastern Europe, and denouncing START I and START II. The threats are probably aimed at securing concessions in return for Moscow's eventual acquiescence to NATO enlargement. -- Scott Parrish INDIA AGREES TO BUY UP TO 50 SU-30 FIGHTERS. Indian Defense Ministry officials and representatives of Rosvoruzhenie signed a contract on 30 November under which India will purchase a number of SU-30MK multi- purpose fighters, Russian and Western agencies reported. Neither side would reveal the number of planes involved, or the exact value of the contract, although Rosvoruzhenie spokesman Valerii Pogrebnikov said the contract is worth more than $1 billion, and Moscow has not denied earlier reports that the deal calls for the delivery of 8 SU-30MK planes initially, and up to 40 later. -- Scott Parrish MILITARY INTELLIGENCE CHIEF IN CUBA. A delegation led by Col.-Gen. Fedor Ladygin, head of the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) of the Russian General Staff, arrived in Havana on 28 November to participate in ceremonies marking the 40th anniversary of the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces, according to ITAR-TASS. Izvestiya, however, reported on 30 November that Ladygin's main mission is to discuss the continued operation of the Russian electronic eavesdropping facility at Lourdes, near Havana, for which Russia reportedly pays Cuba about $200 million annually. -- Scott Parrish CHERNOMYRDIN ON CRIME. Speaking at an Interior Ministry meeting at on 29 November, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin praised the police for managing "to prevent the total criminalization of Russian society" and to halt "the plundering of the national wealth, of natural resources, and the penetration into the national economy of 'dirty,' criminal money." He said, nevertheless, that the shadow economy accounts for 20%- 50% of all economic activity in the country. Chernomyrdin admitted that the government owes the ministry 1.5 trillion rubles ($280 million) and hopes to pay it by the end of the year. The 1997 budget will allocate 30 trillion rubles to the ministry. -- Peter Rutland MONETARY POLICY FOR 1997. The government has approved the Central Bank of Russia's (TsB) blueprint for monetary and credit policy in 1997, Segodnya reported on 29 November. The blueprint envisages a 22%-30% annual increase in money supply. From January through October 1996, cash emission in Russia totaled 17.7 trillion rubles ($3.5 billion), compared to 31.2 trillion rubles over the same period in 1995, Segodnya reported on 28 November. TsB Chairman Sergei Dubinin said that the economy can withstand such an increase next year without boosting yearly inflation to more than the 12% envisioned in the 1997 draft budget. On 29 November, the TsB announced the fifth cut in its refinancing rate this year--from 60% to 48%, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Natalia Gurushina OIL TAX TO BE CUT. On 29 November, First Deputy Economics Minister Yakov Urinson announced that the excise tax on oil will be cut from 70,000 to 55,000 rubles per metric ton in 1997, ITAR-TASS reported. Urinson said that energy companies account for 65% of budget revenue, and are taxed more heavily than their Western counterparts. Economics Minister Yevgenii Yasin told a government meeting on 28 November that the Russian economy will continue to stagnate unless it adopts a new industrial policy, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported. Yasin said the government should give the space, nuclear, and power sectors investments, subsidies, and export credits to help them compete on world markets, and use import tariffs to protect domestic auto, engineering, and light industrial manufacturers. Such recommendations are sharply at odds with the government's current policies. -- Peter Rutland TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN GOVERNMENT GETS A VOTE OF CONFIDENCE. The Armenian parliament on 29 November approved the government program of recently appointed Prime Minister Armen Sarkisyan, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. Speaking at a session of parliament, which is overwhelmingly dominated by deputies loyal to President Levon Ter-Petrossyan, Sarkisyan said a "qualitative improvement" of economic reforms will be his government's top priority. He also pledged more state support for education, science, and culture. -- Emil Danielyan NIYAZOV IN TASHKENT. Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov began a two- day state visit to Uzbekistan on 27 November, and signed a number of economic and cultural agreements designed to improve relations which have been overall cool, Western and Russian news agencies reported. Niyazov and his Uzbek counterpart, Islam Karimov, also discussed the situations in Tajikistan and Afghanistan. On 21 November, Uzbekistan opened an embassy in Ashgabat. -- Lowell Bezanis UPDATE ON CURRENCY CRISIS IN UZBEKISTAN. President Islam Karimov hinted that importers bringing "high quality" goods into Uzbekistan would enjoy a greater degree of convertibility from January 1997. Karimov went on to say joint ventures engaged in "civilized business with Uzbekistan will not suffer any material losses." His remarks, broadcast on Uzbek Radio on 27 November and monitored by the BBC, suggest the government is attempting to step back from regulations introduced in late October that effectively forbid foreign currency transactions and limit currency conversion to a handful of large firms operating in Uzbekistan. Diplomats, traders, and international lending institutions have all registered their displeasure with the new regulations. In other news, Uzbek Radio on 26 November announced the minimum monthly wage in Uzbekistan would rise to 600 som, approximately $12 at the official exchange rate but about $5 on the black market. -- Lowell Bezanis ANOTHER TAJIK TOWN UNDER SIEGE. The city of Garm in central Tajikistan is the latest to fall to forces of the Tajik opposition, Russian and Western media reported. Opposition fighters began attacking Garm on 1 December, killing at least seven government soldiers and by nightfall were holding some 100-150 government employees and soldiers in a local mosque. Government aircraft and helicopters responded by bombing the city. Fighting continued into the next morning. The fall of Garm leaves the opposition in control of a fork in a strategic highway leading both southeast and northeast. Supplies must now be airlifted to government forces in Tajikabad and CIS border guards in Khorog, Kalai-Khumb, and Ishkashim. -- 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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