Words that open our eyes to the world are always the easiest to remember. - Ryszard Kapuscinski
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 61, Part I, 27 March 1995

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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

DUMA ADOPTS FINAL VERSION OF ELECTORAL LAW. The State Duma passed a bill
on presidential elections by a vote of 284-1 with one abstention on 24
March and sent it to the Federation Council, Interfax reported. In order
to be listed on the ballot, potential candidates will be required to
collect 1.5 million signatures, down half a million from the originally
proposed figure. The Duma rejected a proposal by Yabloko's Viktor
Sheinis to reduce the minimum voter turnout for the elections to be
valid from 50% to 25%. By a vote of 257 to 37, with one abstention, the
Duma also approved the bill "On Elections of State Duma Deputies." The
Duma affirmed its decision to elect 225 deputies by party list and 225
by single-member district, a provision President Yeltsin wants to
change. All parties and electoral associations have to collect 200,000
signatures to participate, with no more than 7% of the signatures coming
from any one part of the Russian Federation. For both laws, the Duma
approved a provision calling for mandatory oversight of the electronic
vote-counting system. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

OSCE FINISHES MISSION IN NORTH CAUCASUS. The OSCE has finished its
latest mission to the North Caucasus after being refused entry to Shali
because the Russian military said it could not guarantee the group's
security, international agencies reported on 26 March. Delegation head
Istvan Gyarmati reported that the Russian military had committed human
rights violations on a greater scale than the Chechen forces. He also
expressed optimism that this April the OSCE will open a permanent office
in Grozny to monitor human rights. Meanwhile, a European Parliament
delegation was turned back in its attempt to enter Chechnya from
Ingushetia. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.

RYBKIN WILL RUN FOR PARLIAMENT IN DECEMBER. Duma Chairman Ivan Rybkin
said he will run for reelection in the December 1995 elections, Interfax
reported on 24 March. He has not decided whether to run on a party
ticket or in a single-member district. In 1993, he was elected by the
Agrarian Party. He also said he might run for president in 1996,
depending on whether Boris Yeltsin decides to do so. -- Robert Orttung,
OMRI, Inc.

DUMA-96 MOVEMENT HOLDS CONSTITUENT CONGRESS. Sixty delegates from 48
subjects of the Russian Federation took part in a constituent congress
of the new political movement Duma-96, Segodnya reported on 25 March.
The organization announced that it stands for pooling the resources of
qualified specialists to promote "greater professionalism" in both the
executive and legislative branches. Some deputies in the Duma have
formed a faction to support the Duma-96 movement, but they do not yet
have the 35 members needed for official registration. Vladimir Kvasov, a
deputy associated with the group, said Duma-96 does not have "big
political goals," but that more professionals are needed in government,
since "the people who are now at the helm" cannot solve Russia's
economic crisis. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.

UNION OF REALISTS HOLDS FOUNDING CONFERENCE. The Union of Realists
announced plans to lead Russia out of its "deadlock" at its founding
conference in Moscow on 25 March, Interfax reported. The movement
expressed its willingness to cooperate with all centrist and leftist
parties, including the Communist Party. The union's leader, Yury Petrov,
said it was conceived to "unite the potential of numerous political
parties and movements" for the common good of Russia, Rossiiskie Vesti
reported on 23 March. Although Petrov has known Yeltsin for many years
(they both worked in the Sverdlovsk administration during the Soviet
period) and was once Yeltsin's chief of staff, he told Rossiiskie vesti
that the union will be independent and is not designed to support the
president. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.

RUTSKOI EXPELLED FROM RUSSIAN SOCIAL-DEMOCRATIC PEOPLE'S PARTY. The
Third Congress of the Russian Social-Democratic People's Party (RSDPP)
formally expelled Chairman Alexander Rutskoi and abolished the post of
party chairman, Segodnya reported on 25 March. The expulsion was mainly
symbolic, as Rutskoi had been at odds with the majority of the party
board since early February. Rutskoi had proposed merging the RSDPP with
his Derzhava movement, but Vasily Lipitsky and other board members
favored associating with Lipitsky's Russian Social-Democratic Union.
About 20 of the 46 regional branches of the party supported Rutskoi at
the congress, and the split followed geographical lines: delegates from
southern Russian areas backed Rutskoi, while Siberian and northwestern
regions supported Lipitsky. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.

COMMUNISTS TO SUPPORT 12 APRIL PROTEST. Gennady Zyuganov's Communist
Party of the Russian Federation will support the day of protest called
by trade unions for 12 April, the party's executive committee announced
on 24 March. The party regards its participation in the action as "the
beginning of long-term, nationwide cooperation between Communists and
trade unions," Interfax reported. It said the fact that workers are
making political demands shows they understand the "unpopular character"
of the regime's policies and "the incompatibility of the present
constitutional system with their basic interests." Union organizations
in Primorsky Krai announced on 24 March that they will stage protests
throughout the region on 12 April. The main rally will be in
Vladivostok, ITAR-TASS reported. The unions are angry about wage delays,
unemployment, inflation, and rising crime. According to the 24 March
issue of Pravda, workers in Khabarovsk Krai will demand the government's
resignation and early presidential elections while agriculture workers
in Altai will hold a warning strike to protest the declining
profitability of agricultural enterprises there. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI,
Inc.

YELTSIN SIGNS DECREE ON CHEMICAL WEAPONS DESTRUCTION. President Yeltsin
signed a decree on 25 March that aims to speed up the destruction of
some 40,000 metric tons of chemical warfare agents stored on Russian
territory, ITAR-TASS reported. The toxic agent will be destroyed at
specially-built facilities near current storage sites and the safety of
local inhabitants will be the primary factor in the sites' design. Yuri
Baturin, Yeltsin's national security aid who was named to head the
interdepartmental Commission on Chemical Disarmament, explained on NTV
that many of the storage sites were near--and even in--populated areas.
He said the development of a "social infrastructure" for those regions
would precede work on the destruction sites. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.

GOVERNMENT APPROVES MID-TERM REFORM PROGRAM. The government approved a
program on reform and development of the Russian economy in 1995-97,
Russian and Western agencies reported on 24 March. Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin assessed Russia's battered economy with cautious optimism.
He cited slowing inflation and stabilization in GDP as evidence of
positive changes that are nonetheless "still very fragile." Chernomyrdin
said if the government holds to its budget targets, inflation should
eventually fall to around 4% per month. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.

RUBLE LOSES 11 POINTS. The Russian ruble lost 11 points in MICEX trading
on 24 March, closing at 4,867 rubles to $1, the Financial Information
Agency reported. Initial demand was $64.24 million with initial supply
at $53.67 million. Forty-nine commercial banks participated. -- Thomas
Sigel, OMRI, Inc.

FOREIGN TRADE VIOLATIONS LIKELY. The abolition of special export
privileges which went into effect on 25 March could mean an increase in
trade violations, according to Igor Mitrofanov, head of the Foreign
Economic Relation Ministry's Export-Import Department. Mitrofanov told
Interfax on 24 March that he predicts violations will occur particularly
in exports of oil and non-ferrous metals for hard currency. He
acknowledged the possibility that dishonest exporters could try to
export raw commodities in high demand and keep much of the hard currency
proceeds in foreign banks. Mitrofanov also expects the documented value
of deals to be significantly lower than the actual value. -- Thomas
Sigel, OMRI, Inc.

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

REFERENDUM HELD IN UZBEKISTAN. Uzbek voters were asked if they agreed
with extending the term in office of President Islam Karimov in a
referendum held on 26 March, international media reported. On 27 March,
the government-controlled Uzbek Radio announced, "Our people unanimously
voted" for a three-year extension of Karimov's term, which would have
expired in 1997. Some 11 million voters went to the polls. The alleged
purpose of the referendum was to synchronize future parliament and
presidential elections. Balloting was held in public, not secret.
International observers were not invited to monitor the referendum. The
results, which will be officially announced in some 10 days, had been
widely expected to favor an extension. Karimov said if the results of
the referendum are positive, he intends to consider the additional three
years as the second term of his presidency, Interfax reported on 26
March. According to the Uzbek Constitution, the president may not be
elected to more than two terms. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc.

WORLD BANK TO GRANT UZBEKISTAN REHABILITATION CREDIT. A credit worth
$160 million to stabilize Uzbek national currency, the sum, is to be
extended by the World Bank, FIA reported on 25 March. The credit may be
granted for 20 years under a floating interest rate between 7% and 7.5%
and would be revised once every six months. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI,
Inc.

WORLD BANK CONSIDERS LOANS TO AZERBAIJAN. The World Bank is considering
four separate loans for Azerbaijan worth $150 million, Interfax and an
RFE/RL correspondent reported on 24 March. A World Bank spokesman said
the projects under consideration are a $65 million rehabilitation loan
to help redress Azerbaijan's balance of payments problem, $45 million to
modernize the Baku water supply, $20 million to develop a market
infrastructure, and $20 million to update the country's oil industry. --
Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc.

AZERBAIJAN POPULAR FRONT CONGRESS BANNED. The Baku city commandant
barred the opposition Azerbaijan Popular Front from holding its third
congress in the city on 25 March, Interfax and Western agencies reported
on 25 March quoting the front's deputy chairman Asim MollaZade. He said
the front now hoped to hold the congress on 7 April. The ban follows
earlier reprisals against the front in the wake of the failed coup
attempt in Baku on 15 March. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc.

TURKMENISTAN, PAKISTAN TO BUILD PIPELINE. An agreement on the
construction of a pipeline to carry Turkmen natural gas across
Afghanistan to Pakistani consumers was published in Turkmenistan on 17
March, according to ITAR-TASS. Pakistan is proposing to buy up to 20
billion cubic meters of gas from Turkmenistan annually for 30 years, PIA
reported on 24 March. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc.

CIS

SOSKOVETS, DUMA ON UKRAINE. Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg
Soskovets has refused to comment on remarks by several Duma deputies
that he does not understand the political situation and he rejects
charges that he betrayed the interests of Russia and Russians living
abroad in his negotiations with Ukraine, Ukrainian Radio reported on 24
March. Soskovets said it is time to acknowledge that Ukraine is an
independent state with the right to run its internal affairs
independently. He added that regardless of who will run the Kremlin,
Ukrainian-Russian relations will continue to develop in that vein. Since
Kiev's 17 March decrees on Crimea, several Russian deputies led by
Konstantin Zatulin, chairman of the Duma Committee on CIS Affairs, have
criticized Ukraine and called for a reassessment of relations between
the two countries. On 24 March, Interfax reported that leaders of nine
parliamentary factions in the Duma asked President Yeltsin to hold a
special session to discuss Russia's relations with Ukraine. The nine
factions were: the Agrarian Party; the Communist Party; Women of Russia;
the Liberal Democrats; the Democratic Party of Russia; the Party of
Russian Unity and Accord; Yabloko; the New Regional Policy Party; the
Stability Group. -- Ustina Markus, 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
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