Man's yesterday may ne'er be like his morrow; Naught may endure but Mutability. - Percy Shelley
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 40, Part I, 24 February 1995

We welcome you to Part I of the Open Media Research Institute's Daily
Digest. The Digest is distributed in two sections. This part focuses on
Russia, Transcaucasia and Central Asia, and the CIS. Part II,
distributed simultaneously as a second document, covers East-Central and
Southeastern Europe.

RUSSIA

SITUATION REMAINS TENSE IN GROZNY. The situation remained tense in
Grozny overnight, according to a government press service report cited
by Interfax. Snipers and small groups of militants systematically fired
on federal troops, but no losses were sustained. Representatives of
Russian troops and leaders of Chechen mountain clans met in Tolstoi-Yurt
22 February. The Chechens reported weakening support for Dudaev and
growing friction among the different clans. At a Moscow news conference,
Col.-Gen. Vladimir Semenov, commander-in-chief of Russian Ground Forces,
said most of the soldiers involved in the Chechen fighting had less than
one year of experience because senior soldiers were being demobilized.
On 23 February, Yeltsin signed a decree giving the Chechen Republic
special representation in his administration. The document claimed that
the step was necessary to coordinate the activities of federal and
republican bodies until representative bodies are set up in Chechnya. In
Stavropol, Cossack leader Ataman Viktor Sharkov said Shelkovskaya and
Naurskaya Raions should be transferred to the jurisdiction of Stavropol
Krai. The districts were part of the krai until 1957. He said if that
was accomplished, the Cossacks would send their troops there to protect
the population and rebuild the economy. In particular, he stressed the
need to protect the Russian population there from Dudaev's men. --
Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

NEW PARLIAMENTARY FACTION FORMS. Vladimir Kvasov, Vyacheslav Smirnov,
Viktor Mashinsky, Yevgeny Gusarov (former members of New Regional
Policy), and Vladimir Bauer (a former leader of Russia's Choice)
announced the formation of a new parliamentary faction, Duma-96, which
intends to contest the December elections, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported
on 24 February. So far the group has 23 members, short of the 35
required for official registration. The leaders are recruiting members
among deputies representing single-member districts because they have a
specific electorate and are more likely to be reelected. According to
sources within the Duma, two other deputies' groups are in the process
of formation, and in several cases the names on their lists coincide
with the names on the Duma-96 list. According to Grigory Tomchin, of
Russia's Choice, the recent explosion of new deputy factions is a result
of the politicians' desire to gain reelection, rather than a reflection
of differences within the existing factions, Interfax reported. He
claimed that deputies from single-mandate districts will not be
reelected because of general dissatisfaction with the Duma's work. It
will be more difficult to win seats from party lists because Yeltsin's
proposed legislation envisions only 150 seats for parties, rather than
the previous 225. The deputies are trying to create new lists so that
they will be among the top ten names on their party's list. -- Robert
Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

POLTORANIN: PRESS FREEDOM VIOLATED IN RUSSIA. The freedom of Russia's
media is threatened, according to Mikhail Poltoranin, chairman of the
State Duma press and information committee. Poltoranin blamed two trends
for the recent violations: the declining economic independence of the
press, and the government's creation of "unconstitutional organs of
control" over the electronic media, Ostankino TV reported on 23
February. In 1994, Poltoranin tried unsuccessfully to set up regulatory
bodies for the media outside the government. Although the Duma passed
three of his committee's proposed media laws, all were vetoed or ignored
by President Yeltsin. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.

YELTSIN'S POPULARITY AT NEW LOW. Only 9% of Russians now approve of
President Boris Yeltsin's performance, according to recent surveys by
the All-Russia Center for the Study of Public Opinion. Two-thirds of
those surveyed say Yeltsin should not run for re-election next year,
western agencies reported. Only 4% of respondents believe Yeltsin has
managed the Chechen crisis well. In addition, 57% believe the president
should resign. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.

YELTSIN VETOES LAW ON MINIMUM WAGE. President Yeltsin has rejected a
draft law to raise the minimum wage to 54,100 rubles a month, Interfax
reported on 23 February. In a letter to Duma Chairman Ivan Rybkin,
Yeltsin said the law would cost an additional 159 trillion rubles and
would lead to a sharp reduction in spending on social, investment, and
other important programs. Yeltsin's economic adviser, Aleksandr
Livshitz, said the presidential administration had drafted a decree
containing measures to support those on low incomes in case the
president rejected the draft. The veto, which had been widely expected,
removes a major obstacle to a 6.25 billion standby loan from the IMF. --
Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc.

NORWEGIANS SAY FIRE BROKE OUT ON RUSSIAN MISSILE SUBMARINE. The
Norwegian environmental organization Bellona has claimed that a fire
recently broke out aboard a Russian ballistic missile submarine on
patrol in the Barents Sea, forcing the boat to return to port for
repairs, Aftenposten reported on 22 February. The giant Typhoon-class
missile submarine suffered a fire in its electrical system and returned
to its base at Nerpichya Guba, in the Kola peninsula's Zapadnaya Litsa
fjord on 11 February, Reuters reported. The account said the fire did
not lead to any radioactive leaks. When on patrol, the Typhoon carries
20 SS-N-20 ballistic missiles, each armed with 10 individual nuclear
warheads. "The general decay in Russia's military forces has also
affected the bases in Litsa Fjord. Five of the six Typhoon submarines
are currently in port undergoing repairs," Aftenposten reported. In a
related development, Admiral Felix Gromov, chief of the Russian Navy,
reported on 23 February that three foreign submarines had recently been
detected in the Norwegian and Barents seas near Russia's border,
Interfax reported. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.

CHERNOMYRDIN ORDERS TIGHTER NUCLEAR SECURITY. Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin has ordered tighter security at Russian nuclear facilities
to prevent thefts of radioactive materials, ITAR-TASS reported on 23
February. He made the decision despite Interior Minister Viktor Yerin's
claim that not a single milligram of weapons-grade nuclear material had
disappeared from the facilities. Yerin, however, admitted that 80% of
the police check points at nuclear projects lacked the equipment to
detect nuclear materials. Valery Menshchikov, a Security Council expert,
said there is an "enormous amount" of fissile nuclear material at
Russian storage facilities. As an example, he said that near Tomsk there
are 23,000 containers filled with plutonium-239 and enriched uranium
inside "a normal building which offers no protection against external
sources of damage as, for example, the fall of an aircraft." -- Doug
Clarke, OMRI, Inc.

MOSCOW CALLS FOR INDEFINITE PROLONGATION OF NPT. Russia has called for
the indefinite prolongation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty at
the April-May review conference, ITAR-TASS reported on 23 February.
Grigory Berdennikov, Russia's permanent representative to the UN
Conference on Disarmament, called on other countries to "take the same
stand." He said that would provide "a guarantee of irreversibility for
the process of nuclear disarmament rather than a mandate for the nuclear
powers' interminable possession of nuclear arms." He said Russia is
seeking the total elimination of nuclear weapons. -- Michael Mihalka,
OMRI, Inc.

YELTSIN TO PERSONALLY OVERSEE ARMY REFORMS. President Yeltsin has
announced that he will personally oversee army reform, Interfax reported
on 23 February. At the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Moscow during a
wreath-laying ceremony, he said, "Chechnya proved once again that we are
dragging our feet with army reform. The matter cannot be dragged out
anymore as the army is beginning to crumble." Meanwhile, service chiefs
said the army and the navy are pressing ahead with reforms which will
give them modern, mobile, and well-equipped units, despite economic
limitations, ITAR-TASS reported. They said that although Russia's
military doctrine is peaceful, the defense of the fatherland would
require a military that is capable of repulsing enemy attacks. However
Defense Minister Pavel Grachev said, "If there is money, there will be
reforms. If there is no money, no reforms will go ahead," Ekho Moskvy
reported. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.

CHERNOMYRDIN ANNOUNCES FRESH ECONOMIC REFORMS. Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin announced that the Economics Ministry will present a
government program addressing economic reform for 1995-97 by 15 March,
Interfax and Western sources reported on 23 February. Chernomyrdin noted
the importance of creating financial stabilization, achieving stable low
inflation rates, and improving the environment for both domestic and
foreign investors. Steps must be taken to modernize the economy,
consolidate the industrial infrastructure, and boost exports.
Chernomyrdin said 60 major bills must be approved by the State Duma,
including those concerning effective state property control, joint-stock
companies, banks, the stock market, tax reform, investment incentive,
stage two of the privatization campaign, and private real estate
guarantees. The prime minister said the government must approve the
bills before 12 December when parliament's mandate expires. -- Thomas
Sigel, OMRI, Inc.

DRAFT LAND CODE TO BE SUBMITTED TO STATE DUMA. The State Duma agrarian
committee has completed the draft of Russia's Land Code and will submit
it to the Duma Council for consideration, Interfax reported on 23
February. The agrarian committee chairman, Alexei Chernyshyov, said the
draft is based on decrees presented by the government and Russia's
Choice deputies. The Land Code establishes state, municipal, and private
forms of ownership for land. It also allows foreigners to be
participants in land transactions provided they rent land plots. The
draft provides for strict control and tough restrictions on deals
concerning agricultural land, including a moratorium on the sale of
certain land plots. The majority of collective and Soviet farms have
been reorganized into joint-stock companies, cooperatives, and
associations and the land has become "the property of common ownership,"
he said. To date, more than 20 million hectares of land have been handed
over to 44 million city and village families for ownership, gardening,
and other purposes. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.

MINERS POSTPONE STRIKE ULTIMATUM TO 15 MARCH. Vitaly Budko, chairman of
the Coal Industry Workers' Union, announced that the union has decided
to give the government until 15 March before staging an all-out strike,
agencies reported on 23 February. The miners had earlier said they would
picket government buildings at the end of February and go on strike on 1
March, if the government did not pay wage arrears. Budko said if a
payment schedule could be agreed on before mid-March, there would be no
need for a national protest. He said the government had taken steps
"that make it possible to hope that the miners demands will be met in
full," Interfax reported. Budko also said the union's ruling body had
called on miners in Vorkuta to cancel their planned regional strike
called for 1 March and to act jointly with the union. Yury Vishnevsky,
the Vorkuta miners' leader, said his men would decide on 27 February
whether to go ahead with the strike on 1 March. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI,
Inc.

CIS

SEMENOV DOUBTS CIS AIR DEFENSE SYSTEM POSSIBLE SOON. Col.-Gen. Vladimir
Semenov, commander of Russia's Ground Forces, told Interfax on 23
February that he doubts a joint CIS air defense system could be set up
any time soon. He said the elements of the old system were still intact
in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, but added "everything is in shambles" in
Transcaucasia--Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan--where the 19th Air
Defense Army used to be stationed. He said it would be very costly to
restore the system. As an alternative, he proposed a territorial air
defense system based on mobile air defense and ground units. -- Doug
Clarke, OMRI, Inc.

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez

The OMRI Daily Digest offers the latest news from the former Soviet
Union and East-Central and Southeastern Europe. It is published Monday
through Friday by the Open Media Research Institute. The Daily Digest is
distributed electronically via the OMRI-L list. To subscribe, send
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