To appreciate nonsense requires a serious interest in life. - Gelett Burgess
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 65, Part I, 31 March 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
CHECHENS DENY RUSSIAN CAPTURE OF GUDERMES. Movladi Udugov, press
secretary to Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev, denied claims by the
Russian military press center in Mozdok and by Russian First Deputy
Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets that Russian forces had succeeded in
taking the town of Gudermes on 30 March, but admitted that the town was
still under attack, Interfax reported. Col.-Gen. Anatoly Kulikov, the
commander of federal troops in Chechnya, had previously told ITAR-TASS
that 80% of Chechen territory would be under Russian control, once
Gudermes and Shali were captured. Meanwhile, the recently created
Chechen Committee for National Accord has begun drafting an electoral
law for Chechnya, its chairman Umar Avturkhanov told Interfax on 30
March. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc.

YELTSIN URGED NOT TO SIGN AIDS LAW. AIDS-prevention activists inside and
outside Russia have appealed to President Boris Yeltsin not to sign a
draft AIDS law on 31 March, Russian and Western agencies reported. The
law, passed unanimously by the State Duma on 24 February, would impose
mandatory AIDS tests on foreigners wishing to stay in Russia longer than
three months, refugees, employees of certain enterprises, and prison
inmates. The law's critics say mandatory testing is costly,
unenforceable, and will not halt the spread of the virus. They also
charge that the law contravenes the declaration Russia signed at the
December 1994 Paris AIDS summit and contains internal contradictions.
For instance, the law guarantees Russian citizens access to voluntary,
anonymous AIDS testing and full rights if they are found HIV-positive,
yet it goes on to say that some of those rights may be restricted. There
are now 883 officially registered HIV-positive cases in Russia, but
experts say the real number of infected citizens is much higher,
Interfax reported. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.

LOBOV ON POSSIBLE VARIATIONS OF NATO EXPANSION. Security Council
Secretary Oleg Lobov said NATO expansion in Central and Eastern Europe
and the Baltic states at the same time as Russia is forced to negotiate
through the Partnership for Peace framework is totally unacceptable to
Russia, Interfax reported on 30 March. But he stressed that "there must
be no haste in making categorical assessments" on the question. He said
the countries of Central and Eastern Europe have many unresolved ethnic
and territorial disputes which drive them to seek some "stabilizing
force" such as NATO. Lobov offered two possible ways of creating a
European security system that Russia would accept. One involves the
establishment of an absolutely new organization to include all the
countries of Europe and the CIS. Lobov, however, rejected that idea as
too cumbersome and unrealistic because it would destroy NATO. A second
alternative would be for Russia and the countries of Central and Eastern
Europe to join NATO simultaneously. In that case, Russia would not
"strongly object" to any country's decision to become a member.
According to Lobov, however, the process could take decades. He warned
that if NATO expanded unilaterally, Russia would be forced to strengthen
its own defense capability as well as that of its neighbors. -- Robert
Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

ANOTHER AMMO DUMP EXPLODES IN FAR EAST. Some 200 carloads of aircraft
missiles blew up on 30 March at an ammunition dump near the Chinese
border in Russia's Maritime region, ITAR-TASS reported. The agency
indicated that some explosions were still taking place the next day. The
location of the depot was variously reported as Taly and Taloye, and it
was said to belong to the Far Eastern military district. Local civil
defense officials said the incident was triggered by a forest fire, and
that there were no casualties. The Russian military in the Far East has
been plagued by such disasters. In May 1992, munitions at a dump on the
outskirts of Vladivostok burned and exploded for two days. Two years
later there was a catastrophic explosion at a navy ammunition depot in
Novonezhinsk, near Vladivostok. Exploding shells at a munitions depot
near Babstovo, in the Jewish Autonomous Region, forced the evacuation of
village residents last August. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.

MOSCOW: NO PROMISE TO WITHDRAW KURILES TROOPS. Russia has never promised
to withdraw troops from the four disputed islands in the Kuriles that
are claimed by Japan, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman said in
Moscow on 30 March. Nikita Matkovsky was responding to a recent
complaint by a senior Japanese diplomat that Russia had failed to honor
such a pledge, Interfax reported. In 1992, Boris Yeltsin said Russia was
prepared to withdraw its troops from the islands by mid-1995 as part of
a broader agreement to mend its relations with Japan. Matkovsky said the
stationing of troops on its own territory is exclusively Russia's
affair. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.

RUSSIAN COMPANY TO UPGRADE CAPE CANAVERAL PADS. Gennady Biryukov, the
chief designer of the Design Bureau of Transport Machinery [KBTM] in
Moscow, told journalists on 30 March that his company had signed a
contract with Lockheed Martin Airspace to update the launch pads for
Atlas boosters at the American space center in Cape Canaveral. KBTM was
the Soviet Union's chief developer of missile launch equipment for the
Strategic Missile Forces and the navy. Biryukov said the dollar value of
the deal was "insignificant," Interfax reported. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI,
Inc.

GOVERNMENT APPROVES PRIVATIZATION PLAN...The Russian government approved
a draft of the second stage of privatization that might include a major
role for private banks, Russian and Western agencies reported on 30
March. The draft, compiled by the State Property Committee, is expected
to bring in 9 trillion rubles in state revenue. Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin said the drafts of the appropriate presidential decrees and
government regulations will be updated by a government commission within
two weeks. Sergei Belyaev, chairman of the State Property Management
Committee, who is expected to lead the commission, supported a proposal
by a consortium of nine private banks to aid in the privatization
process. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.

....MINISTRIES CRITICIZE PRIVATIZATION DRAFT. The heads of the
Communication and Fuel and Energy ministries and the State Precious
Metals and Precious Stones Committee criticized the draft for the second
stage of privatization saying it failed to encourage domestic investment
and did not provide for the expansion of businesses slated to be
privatized, Interfax reported on 30 March. The critics said the draft
focuses on the short term goal of speedy share sales to boost revenue
for the 1995 national budget. They also doubted the potential to raise 9
trillion rubles, because in order to reach this target, 24 trillion
rubles worth of shares must be sold. Some speakers called for halting
the privatization process to give more thought to planning the second
stage. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.

GOVERNMENT ENDORSES WORLD BANK OIL LOAN AGREEMENT. The government
endorsed a second oil rehabilitation loan for $500 million, which was
signed between Moscow and the World Bank on 27 September 1994, the
Petroleum Information Agency reported on 30 March. The loan will be used
to restore and modernize oil facilities in Western Siberia. Three
leading oil-producing associations in the region, Megionneftegaz,
Tomskneft, and Yuganskneftegaz will receive $150 million, $160 million,
and $190 million respectively as 10-year term loans with a two-year
delay payment stipulation. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

KAZAKH PRESIDENT DRAWS CRITICISM FROM WASHINGTON. In a speech delivered
at Indiana University on 29 March, U.S. Secretary of State Warren
Christopher commented on recent political developments in Kazakhstan.
Christopher, speaking about U.S. policy toward Russia and other former
Soviet states, said, "[Kazakh] President [Nursultan] Nazarbayev's effort
to unilaterally extend his term in Kazakhstan is, I am sorry to say, a
step backward. We call on him to renew his commitment to uphold timely
parliamentary elections, followed by the scheduled presidential
elections in 1996," Reuters reported. In a speech to a trade union
congress in Almaty, Nazarbayev said, "I am not an ambitious person. It
is not Nazarbayev who needs the referendum, it is the people, the
families of Kazakhstan, who don't want something like Chechnya or
Karabakh happening in the republic," according to Reuters. -- Bruce
Pannier, OMRI, Inc.

ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT ADOPTS CONSTITUTIONAL LAW. Eduard Yegoryan, chairman
of the Armenian parliament Permanent Commission for the Restoration of
National Statehood, said parliament's adoption of a constitutional law
"opened the way towards...adoption of a new Fundamental Law through a
universal referendum," Interfax reported on 29 March. Under the law, the
new Armenian National Assembly will be elected to four-year terms.
Government members, representatives of the prosecutor's office, national
security, and interior bodies, and officers of the national Armed Forces
will be barred from running for parliament. The National Assembly will
be made up of 190 deputies: 150 elected by single-member district and 40
on party lists. Citizens, public organizations, or associations may
nominate candidates for the National Assembly. The referendum is
scheduled to he held on 5 July. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc.

CIS

ABKHAZ PRESIDENT ON RUSSIAN BASING AGREEMENT. Addressing a meeting in
Sukhumi on 30 March, Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba said the
Russian-Georgian agreement concluded last week in Tbilisi, which granted
Russia the right to maintain a military base in the Abkhaz town of
Gudauta for 25 years, should also have been signed by representatives of
Abkhazia, ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile, Abkhaz parliament chairman
Sokrat Dzhindzholia said in Moscow on 30 March that Abkhazia has
abandoned its demands for total independence from Georgia but insists on
a confederative agreement, Interfax reported. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc.

BELARUS TO SUE KAZAKHSTAN. The Belarusian government filed a $3 million
legal suit against the Kazakh government in the CIS Economic Court in
Minsk on 29 March, Belarusian radio reported the next day. Belarus
lodged the suit because of Kazakhstan's failure to honor a 4 June 1994
agreement on grain deliveries. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.

RUSSIA SAYS RELATIONS WITH UKRAINE UNDER THREAT. Russian Foreign
Ministry spokesman Nikita Matkovsky said Ukraine's accusations against
Russian consular workers in Crimea are unacceptable, Reuters reported on
30 March. Ukraine had ordered Russian consular workers to stop working
earlier this week, claiming they were "recruiting" Crimeans to take
Russian citizenship. Matkovsky said Ukraine's moves "hinder friendly
relations" between Moscow and Kiev, and said he hoped no further actions
would be taken. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.

KARIMOV ON RUSSIA, CIS. Speaking at a ceremony to confirm the extension
of his mandate to the year 2000, Uzbek President Islam Karimov said that
despite criticism, the referendum was conducted strictly according to
the law as "reaffirmed by international observers" and would allow the
government to complete the country's political reform as quickly as
possible, Interfax reported on 30 March. He said the referendum also
ruled out any political friction and set conditions for the second stage
of economic reforms. Karimov stressed the need for the country to
participate in various international agencies, the importance of
regionalism, and Tashkent's policy of maintaining dynamic relations with
countries of differing social or political systems. He said Tashkent is
keen see a normalization of the situation in Afghanistan and to promote
relations with countries such as India, Pakistan, and Iran, adding that
those interests do not amount to a distancing from the CIS, which has no
alternative in the region. He pledged Tashkent's commitment to join the
customs union that groups Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan together.
Karimov rejected any political, economic, or military "supranational
structures," saying that was why he refused to endorse an agreement on a
uniform CIS command of frontier troops and the idea of a Eurasian union.
Karimov expressed his unequivocal support for cooperation with Russia,
calling the country "a guarantor of stability in Central Asia." --
Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc.


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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