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Newsline - December 27, 1995

December, eight days after the Duma elections, the Central Electoral
Commission (TsIK) announced "final preliminary" results, Russian media
reported. TsIK Chairman Nikolai Ryabov told ITAR-TASS on 26 December
that the final official figures may be released later this week:

(party list) party-list single-member total seats 1993
(225 total) (225 total) seats

KPRF 22.31% 100 58 158 45
NDR 9.89% 44 10 54 na
LDPR 11.06% 50 1 51 64
Yabloko 6.93% 31 14 45 25
APR 3.78% 0 20 20 55
DVR 3.9% 0 9 9 76
VN 2.1% 0 9 9 na
KRO 4.29% 0 5 5 na
ZhR 4.6% 0 3 3 23
PST 4.01% 0 1 1 na
KTR 4.52% 0 0 0 0

Note: Independent candidates have won 77 out of the 225 single-member
seats, and a number of small parties have won up to three seats each

Abbreviations: Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF), Liberal
Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), Our Home Is Russia (NDR), Women of
Russia (ZhR), Russia's Democratic Choice (DVR), Power to the People
(VN), Congress of Russian Communities (KRO), Communists-Working Russia
(KTR), Party of Workers' Self-Management (PST). (Source: ITAR-TASS on 22
December.) * Laura Belin

The Fifth State Duma met for the last time on 22 December, having passed 461 draft laws in two years, 282 of which were signed into law by President Yeltsin. Speaker Ivan Rybkin read out a letter from the president praising the lower house for furthering Russia's transition "to civilized parliamentarism," ITAR-TASS reported. However, the same day Yeltsin vetoed the law on corruption which had earlier passed the Duma and Federation Council, citing various technical irregularities. Among the last acts of the Duma on 22 December was its approval of the second half of the Civil Code, governing economic activity. More than 500 partly drafted laws will be referred to the Sixth Duma, which will hold its opening session in mid-January. -- Laura Belin and Peter Rutland

Although Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin has repeatedly said that the election results would not force any cabinet reshuffles, in a 25 December interview with ITAR-TASS he did not rule out the possibility that representatives of the Communist Party could join his government. The next day, prominent KPRF figure Gennadii Seleznev rejected the offer: "We do not intend to share responsibility for what is going on in the country with the current cabinet." On 26 December, Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Shakhrai announced his departure from the government to serve in the Duma. Shakhrai's Party of Russian Unity and Concord won less than 1% of the vote nationwide, but he was elected in a single-member district in Rostov-na-Donu. -- Laura Belin

President Boris Yeltsin checked out of the Barvikha sanitarium and moved to his nearby country residence on 26 December, Russian and Western agencies reported. Yeltsin had been under medical supervision since being hospitalized on 26 October, following a recurrence of the heart problem that had put him in hospital for nearly a month in July. Yeltsin has now spent about three months this year undergoing medical treatment for his heart condition. On 22 December, Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev announced that Yeltsin's first overseas trip of 1996 would be to China this coming March. A scheduled Yeltsin visit to Beijing this November was canceled due to the president's illness. -- Scott Parrish

On 26 December, President Boris Yeltsin signed a decree creating a Presidential Foreign Policy Council, Russian and Western agencies reported. The new council, to be chaired by the President, will include the ministers of foreign affairs, defense, foreign trade, CIS affairs, and finance, as well as the heads of the Federal Security Service, Foreign Intelligence Service, Federal Border Service, and the president's foreign policy aide. The formation of the council is the latest sign that Yeltsin intends to concentrate foreign policy decision-making in his own hands in an effort to impose order on the chaotic Russian foreign policy process. -- Scott Parrish

Because no candidate received a majority of the vote on 17 December, runoff elections for the post of governor were held in Novosibirsk and Tambov oblasts on 24 December, Russian agencies reported. In Tambov, with 52.5% turnout, Communist Party (KPRF) candidate and current head of the oblast duma, Aleksandr Ryabov, garnered 52.6% of the vote to defeat incumbent Yeltsin appointee Oleg Betin, who received 43.5%. In Novosibirsk, bad weather did not prevent voter turnout from reaching 40%, more than the 25% needed for a valid election. Preliminary results showed former oblast administration head Vitalii Mukha, who was dismissed by Yeltsin in October 1993 for refusing to implement a Yelstin's decree #1400 to disband parliament and local soviets, defeating incumbent Yeltsin appointee Ivan Indinok. Meanwhile, in Moscow Oblast, a runoff election pitting incumbent Anatolii Tyazhlov against Valerii Galchenko will be held on 30 December, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Scott Parrish

After fierce fighting on 22-23 December, by 25 December Russian troops had reestablished control over the half-destroyed town of Gudermes. They are now engaged in clearing mines and eradicating the remaining pockets of Chechen resistance. The pro-Moscow Chechen government and parliament issued an appeal to the Chechen population for assistance in "restoring order" in the republic. The U.S. government expressed concern at the fighting and called for a halt to hostilities, Radio Rossii reported. On 26 December, Russian TV quoted Russian Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov as stating that the Gudermes offensive has made further negotiations with Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev out of the question. The Round Table of Chechen political parties, meeting in Grozny on 23 December, decided to create a coalition council uniting all political forces including supporters of President Dudaev, according to Russian TV. -- Liz Fuller

The Russian brigade slated to join the NATO-led Bosnian peace implementation force (IFOR) will leave for Bosnia in late January, Russian and Western agencies reported on 25 December. However, Russian military officials said the brigade could leave only after the Federation Council approves its deployment. According to the Russian constitution, the council must endorse any use of Russian military units outside the country, and it is scheduled to debate the issue on 5 January. An advance team of airborne officers, led by Maj. Gen. Nikolai Statsenko, visited Bosnia last week. It stirred controversy by meeting with Bosnian Serb military leader Ratko Mladic, who is wanted for war crimes (see related Item in CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE Section). A second 80-man advance force is expected to leave for Bosnia later this week. -- Scott Parrish

A meeting of the government's Commission on Religious Organizations warned that foreign based religious sects are infiltrating schools and colleges and violating the law on the separation of church and state, ITAR-TASS reported on 21 December. Commission members mentioned for example a school course called "The World and I" sponsored by the Church of Reverend Moon, and a "Hubbard hall" run by the scientologists in one of the libraries of Moscow State University. The shift from atheism to religious pluralism has made it more difficult to decide how to regulate such activities, according to the commission's secretary, Anatolii Krasikov. -- Peter Rutland

The number of registered unemployed has risen by 40% this year and now stands at 2.2 million, or 3% of the labor force, according to ITAR-TASS on 25 December. There are 350,000 registered vacancies. The unemployment rate ranges from 22% in Ingushetiya and 11% in Ivanovo to only 0.5% in Moscow. Under ILO criteria, the unemployment rate would be considerably higher, totaling around 5 million (8%). -- Peter Rutland

The deal under which the Italian firm STET offered a 6.5 trillion ruble ($1.4 billion) bid for the Russian telephone company Svyazinvest collapsed on 23 December, Russian media reported. On 1 December, it was announced that STET won the bidding for a 25% share in the company, which had been carved out of the former monopoly Rostelekom. However, the Russian side complained that STET subsequently began imposing additional conditions. Presidential adviser Aleksandr Livshits, speaking on Russian Public TV (ORT) on 26 December, blamed the deal's failure on "irresponsible comments by a number of opposition party leaders" during the election campaign. He said that a new tender will be arranged next year. -- Peter Rutland

Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev won an overwhelming victory in his country's presidential election on 24 December, international media reported. Central Electoral Commission spokesman Mambetjunus Abylov reported that 81.8% of the 2.36 million registered voters took part in the election and 73.9% of those who voted cast their ballots for Akayev in Kyrgyzstan's first election since independence in 1991. Absamat MasAliyev of the Communist Party and former parliament speaker Medetken Sherimkulov took about 20% and 3% of the vote respectively. Both said they intend to protest the results. MasAliyev claims there were numerous incidents of fraud on election day. Most international monitoring organizations have yet to make any comments on the election, but U.S. State Department spokesman Glyn Davies said that the voting "was basically free and open despite some violations of election law." -- Bruce Pannier

The UN special envoy to Tajikistan, Ramiro Piriz-Ballon, announced on 22 December that the fourth round of inter-Tajik talks has been suspended until mid-January, according to RFE/RL. A spokesman for the Tajik opposition, Ali Akbar Turajonzoda, said it is useless to continue the talks until CIS member states make their positions clear at a CIS summit scheduled for mid-January. The announcement touched off fighting on the Tajik-Afghan border in which at least 75 rebels were killed trying to cross into Tajikistan from Afghanistan. -- Bruce Pannier

Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev issued a decree that does away with the Soviet-era system of peoples' courts, and calls for only professional judges to be appointed to the to the Supreme Court and local courts, Kazakhstanskaya pravda reported on 27 December. Some judges of the Supreme Court are to be elected by members of the Senate and others are to be nominated by the president. The chairman of the Supreme Court endorsed the stand of Justice Minister Konstantin Kolpakov that only a strong executive can ensure the independence of the judiciary, adding that judges are under far more pressure now than in the Soviet period. -- Bhavna Dave in Almaty

Turkmen Foreign Minister Boris Shikhmuradov told Russian TV on 25 December that his country is suffering from the rupture of economic ties with Russia but expressed confidence that bilateral economic relations would soon improve. Shikhmuradov denied reports that Turkmenistan is sending officers to Turkey for military training, claiming that the country cannot afford to do so, but said that officers are being trained in Russia and Ukraine and that future trainees would be sent to India and Pakistan. He denied that the high Turkish commercial profile in Turkmenistan constitutes a threat to third countries, and reiterated Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov's affirmations that the country would not enter any alliance based on linguistic, ethnic, or geographic proximity. The broadcast characterized Shikhmuradov as a close associate of Niyazov, who in turn was said to be a passionate hunter and fond of chess, folk music, billiards, and cars. -- Liz Fuller

At its seventh congress in Erevan, the ruling Armenian National Movement nominated incumbent Levon Ter-Petrossyan as its candidate for the presidential elections due in September 1996, Radio Rossii reported on 24 December. -- Liz Fuller


Parliamentary run-off elections took place on 24 December, Ukrainian radio reported the next day. Five new deputies were elected, bringing the total number of legislators to 418. Two of the deputies, Ihor Sharov and Anatolii Drobotov, were from Crimea and belong to the Communist Party. Yaroslav Fedoryn was elected to a Kiev district seat and belongs to the Rukh party. The other two deputies, Anatolii Kovalenko and Serhii Buryak, were also elected to Kiev seats and are independents. -- Ustina Markus

President Leonid Kuchma appointed Deputy Prime Minister Roman Shpek to head the National Council on Statistical Issues, Ukrainian radio reported on 25 December. Kuchma also created a Commission to Reform Professional-Technical Education and named Deputy Prime Minister Ivan Kyras as its head. The dean of the law school of Kiev University, Vladlen Honcharenko, was appointed to the commission working on legal reforms. -- Ustina Markus

The Belarusian Constitutional Court ruled on 26 December that a presidential decree revoking privileges from some sectors of the population was unconstitutional. The court found that the president did not have the right to issue, abolish or suspend laws. This was the right of the legislature and the decree was an "attempt by the president to assume certain functions of the legislature." -- Ustina Markus

Aleksander Kwasniewski, the 41-year-old former leader of the Democratic Left Alliance, was sworn in on 23 December as President of Poland, replacing Lech Walesa, whose term expired the day before. Kwasniewski said he was open to dialogue with his political opponents and the Catholic Church and that he will continue the work for Poland's entry into European structures and NATO. Kwasniewski made no mention of the alleged espionage activities of Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy (See OMRI Daily Digest, 20 December 1995). Walesa stayed at his home in Gdansk and did not participate in the inauguration ceremonies, nor did deputies from the pro-Walesa Confederation of Independent Poland. Only a few deputies from other opposition parties were present. Outside the parliament building around 1,500 anti-communist demonstrators protested against the investiture, Polish dailies reported on 27 December. -- Jakub Karpinski

Polish Chief Military Prosecutor General Ryszard Michalowski said on 22 December that the materials received from the Internal Affairs Ministry on 19 December, regarding the alleged espionage activities of Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy, have gaps and inadequacies. Michalowski demanded additional clarifications from the ministry, before he decides whether to launch a probe. The Sejm nominated on the same day a 12-person extraordinary commission to investigate the Oleksy affair. The commission summoned Michalowski, former Internal Affairs Minister Andrzej Milczanowski, and the chief of the State Protection Office, General Gromoslaw Czempinski, to testify on 3 and 4 January, Polish dailies reported on 23 and 27 December. -- Jakub Karpinski

Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy nominated three acting ministers on 22 December to replace those who resigned at the end of President Lech Walesa's term. Foreign Affairs Minister Wladyslaw Bartoszewski was replaced by undersecretary Eugeniusz Wyzner, a career diplomat who was a deputy UN Secretary-General from 1982 to 1992. Zbigniew Sobotka, undersecretary in the Internal Affairs Ministry and a deputy of the Democratic Left Alliance, replaced Internal Affairs Minister Andrzej Milczanowski. Defense Minister Zbigniew Okonski was replaced by the state secretary in the Defense Ministry, Andrzej Karkoszka. The nomination of new full-fledged ministers is expected in a few days. Oleksy also dismissed on 22 December Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs Henryk Jasik, who was recently promoted to general by Walesa. Jasik was involved in collecting material evidence against Oleksy, the Polish press reported on 23 and 27 December. -- Jakub Karpinski

The union of creditors of the Banka Baltija appealed on 22 December the bankruptcy verdict passed on 11 December by the Economic Court, BNS reported. The appeal noted that the court had acted on the request for bankruptcy by the bank's administrator and not by either the Bank of Latvia or two creditors, as the law requires. The same day, the General Public Prosecutor's Office brought additional charges of embezzlement and malicious causing of bankruptcy against Aleksandrs Lavent, the former chairman of the bank's supervision council. Lavent, who was arrested in June and charged with sabotage against the Latvian state, was to have been released on 28 December. -- Saulius Girnius

In the presence of President Lennart Meri, Prime Minister Tiit Vahi, and Interior Minister Mart Rask, the first warship built in Estonia after World War II was launched on 22 December, ETA reported. It is a 30-meter long coast guard vessel christened Pikker (Thunder) which cost nearly 15 million kroon ($1.3 million). -- Saulius Girnius

Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus on 22 December countersigned a presidential-decree calling parliamentary elections for 31 May and 1 June 1996, Czech media reported. The first elections to the upper house of parliament, the Senate, will be held on 15 and 16 November. Klaus wanted the two sets of elections to be held together but finally agreed to Havel's proposal that they take place separately (See OMRI Daily Digest, 19 December 1995). The June polls will be the first parliamentary elections since the Czech Republic became an independent state on 1 January 1993. -- Steve Kettle

Moscow State University on 22 December awarded Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar an honorary doctorate for his role in developing Russian-Slovak relations, Slovak media reported. At the ceremony in Moscow, Meciar described relations between the Russian Federation and Slovakia as exemplary and said they would not be jeopardized, even if Slovakia becomes a member of NATO. -- Steve Kettle

The Hungarian government has relaxed the rules restricting the amount of currency that travellers can take abroad, international media reported on 22 December. The previous annual limit of $800 was raised to 200,000 forints ($1,430), according to reports. The decision followed parliamentary approval in November of a new currency law, the latest step towards making the forint fully convertible. -- Steve Kettle

International media reported on 26 December that NATO's commander in Bosnia, Admiral Leighton Smith, met a Bosnian Serb delegation in Pale. In keeping with IFOR guidelines, he refused to talk to indicted war criminals Radovan Karadzic or General Ratko Mladic, so the Serbian team was headed by parliamentary speaker Momcilo Krajisnik. The Serbs pledged to continue to cooperate with NATO, but asked for an extension of the deadline by which they must hand over some parts of Sarajevo to a transitional authority and ultimately to the Bosnian government. Smith said that he "did not say yes or no. I am not in a position to negotiate the details [of the Dayton peace agreement] but I do have the authority to make extensions on time lines," adding that he will seek the "wise guidance" of his senior commanders, AFP added. -- Patrick Moore

In contrast to Admiral Smith, Russian Major-General Nikolai Staskov met General Mladic while on a mission of "national reconnaissance," as explained by a NATO spokesman in Sarajevo, Reuters and Nasa Borba reported on 24 and 25 December. An IFOR spokesman said that this meeting happened without the prior knowledge of or approval by NATO, demonstrating that the Russians are not willing to coordinate their activities completely with NATO at a time when the rules for Russian participation are still being clarified. According to the IFOR spokesman, Staskov's role in the meeting with Mladic was not clear, although international media suggested that the Brcko corridor was on the agenda because the Serbs had unsuccessfully tried to have the Russians stationed there instead of the Americans. -- Daria Sito Sucic

CNN reported on 26 December that heavy rains and floods had slowed U.S. engineers trying to construct a bridge from Zupanja, Croatia, across the Sava River into northern Bosnia. The Americans nonetheless opened their first checkpoint in the Brcko corridor, 7.5 km south of the Sava, on the Tuzla road. AFP added that U.S. vehicles were "testing their freedom of movement" in the sensitive corridor and proceded unhindered by government or Serbian soldiers. In Banja Luka, Reuters said that the region is "one big refugee camp," as aid workers deal with 280,000 Serbian refugees, over half of whom arrived this year. Since the summer, the Serbian authorities accelerated their expulsion of the region's few remaining Croats and Muslims, but housing for Serb refugees remains a problem. On 27 December, AFP reported that British troops found 12 bodies near Sanski Most, where fleeing Serbian soldiers killed Muslim and Croat civilians in October. The bodies have yet to be identified. -- Patrick Moore

Serbian and government forces on 24 December exchanged 245 prisoners in no man's land in northeastern Bosnia, Reuters reported. According to local officials, 114 Serbs and 131 troops of the government forces, most of whom were captured in Srebrenica earlier this year, were freed in the "first big exchange of prisoners in the last two years." Swedish soldiers within IFOR supervised the exchange which, according to the Dayton agreement, should be completed by 28 February, Nasa Borba reported on 25 December. -- Daria Sito Sucic

The primate of Croatia, Cardinal Franjo Kuharic, said that Croatian Serbs who fled their homes should be allowed to come back if they agree to be loyal citizens of Croatia. Kuharic pointed out that the Roman Catholic Church has repeatedly called for all victims of "ethnic cleansing" to be allowed to return to their homes and property, Nasa Borba reported on 25 December. He added that the Catholic and Orthodox churches should make a serious inquiry into the origins of the conflict and show that "there is a way out from the war and the hatred." The cardinal has been a voice for reconciliation throughout the conflict and played a notable role in opposing the Croat-Muslim war of 1993. -- Patrick Moore

A special bishop's conference of the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) was called in Belgrade on 21 December to discuss an internal split among bishops over the Dayton agreement and loss of territories in Republika Srpska, Beta reported the same day. Dozens of SPC bishops called on Patriarch Pavle to resign because he failed to oppose the Dayton peace agreement, while he himself earlier announced his possible resignation from the post. The church leadership has long backed Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic's "Greater Serbian" policy although they distrust him because of his communist background. They prefer the non-communist Karadzic, whom they backed in his feud with Milosevic, and seconded his complaints about the peace treaty. -- Daria Sito Sucic

Delegates from five opposition parties--the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO), the Serbian Radical Party (SRS), the Democratic Party (DS), the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS), and the Democratic Community of Hungarians in Vojvodina -- met on 26 December for the first sitting of what has been dubbed "the parallel parliament" for Serbia, Nasa Borba reported on 27 December. This appears to be the latest in a series of moves aimed at opposition cooperation. On 26 December Nasa Borba reported that on the previous day the republic's legislature passed its budget for 1996, with only the governing Socialist Party of Serbia delegates, their opposition New Democracy allies and several breakaway members of the SRS (now the Radical Party `Nikola Pasic') supporting and debating the legislation. Members of the five aforementioned opposition parties boycotted, objecting to a government ban on television coverage of the legislature, and to government business being conducted "on the day of the great Christian holiday--Catholic Christmas." -- Stan Markotich

Meanwhile, participants in the "alternative legislature" say the institution is an important vehicle in opposing the government's power monopoly, Nasa Borba reports on 27 December. The SRS leader in the institution, Tomislav Nikolic, said, "if anyone thinks he can defeat the socialists on his own, he's welcome to try. I don't think that can be done, and I'll try to show that through this institution." SPO leader Vuk Draskovic added that in the absence of parliamentary television coverage, the parallel parliament may communicate directly with citizens, providing information and soliciting input on legislation. On a separate but related topic, Nasa Borba on 26 December reported that "after over a month of negotiations," the DS, DSS and two other minor parties finally agreed on forming an electoral bloc, the Democratic Alliance. Whether these developments are being perceived as a threat by the SPS is highly debatable, given that all previous opposition efforts to oust or impede the socialists have floundered over parties' inability to sustain working relations. -- Stan Markotich

Domestic and Western media reported on 22 December that Minister of Commerce Petru Crisan had resigned. According to a government press release carried by Romanian television, a successor would be appointed next month. The daily Adevarul has alleged that in addition to his portfolio, Crisan was at the same time a manager and shareholder of private and state-owned companies, which was a conflict of interests. Other media indicated that he may have used his influence to favor private business interests. Prime Minister Nicolae Vacaroiu told Radio Bucharest on 23 December that a government inquiry showed no wrongdoing on Crisan's part, but that the minister chose to submit his resignation in order to avoid damaging the executive's image. -- Michael Shafir

Former tennis star Ilie Nastase will run for mayor of Bucharest in the local elections scheduled for spring 1996, the daily Evenimentul zilei reported on 23 December. Nastase, who has recently joined the largest coalition party, the Party of Social Democracy in Romania, said his entrance into politics has been received well abroad and that he intended to use his influence to help his native city overcome its rapid deterioration. -- Michael Shafir

Moldovan and Western press agencies reported on 24-25 December that preliminary results of the voting held in the 24 December elections and referendum in the breakaway Transdniestrian region indicate that 54 out of the 67 seats in the parliament were filled as a result of the votes cast. There will be runoffs in the remaining districts, all affecting the second chamber of the legislature. It is not clear yet which party emerged as victorious, but reports indicated that most voters favored the Bloc of Patriotic Forces, which stands for closer links with Russia and a revival of the Soviet Union. In the referendum held concomitantly with the elections, 81.8% approved the region's separatist constitution, which proclaims the Transdniester an independent state, and 90.6% voted in favor of its joining the CIS and its related structures. Moldovan leaders denounced the elections and the referendum as illegitimate. Official Russia distanced itself from the poll. ITAR-TASS quoted a foreign ministry spokesman as saying that the region was "part of the Republic of Moldova" and what happened there was "an internal affair of that independent and sovereign state." -- Michael Shafir

Albanian President Sali Berisha decreed the return of all former properties to the religious communities in speeches at orthodox and catholic churches in Tirana on 25 December. The property affected by the law is estimated to include about 35,000 hectares of agricultural land, Republika reported on 26 December. All properties of the Muslim community and the orthodox and catholic churches were nationalized in 1967. -- Fabian Schmidt

Greek Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou has left intensive care, AFP reported on 26 December. The move was earlier delayed when the 76-year-old leader suffered an intestinal infection, but the infection seems to be "under control." The ailing premier has been in hospital since 20 November, when he was taken ill with pneumonia, which was later complicated by breathing and kidney problems. -- Fabian Schmidt

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Pete Baumgartner