Comedy is an escape, not from truth but from despair; a narrow escape into faith. - Christopher Fry

No. 73, Part I, 12 April 1995

We welcome you to Part I of the Open Media Research Institute's Daily
Digest. 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.  Back issues of the Daily
Digest, and other information about OMRI, are available through our WWW


YELTSIN VISITS KABARDINO-BALKARIA. President Yeltsin interrupted his
vacation in Sochi on 11 April to visit Nalchik. In his talks with
reporters, he said he had not made a decision on whether to seek re-
election, Russian Public Television reported. However, Interfax quoted
an anonymous source close to the president who said he would announce
his intention to run again before the celebrations to commemorate the
victory over the Nazis so that he can greet visiting dignitaries as "the
most likely candidate to be president until the end of the century."
Yeltsin said that, during his vacation, he is keeping in constant
contact with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, Moscow Mayor Yury
Luzhkov (to prepare for the WWII celebration), and Defense Minister
Pavel Grachev. Yeltsin said he is planning some personnel changes but
did not give details, NTV reported. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

the issue of a no-confidence vote in the government off its agenda this
week, acceding to Vladimir Zhirinovsky's decision to withdraw his
support for the move, NTV reported 11 April. However, Sergei Glazev,
leader of the Democratic Party of Russia, said he would raise the issue
again on 13 April, Interfax reported. If a faction calls for a vote of
no confidence, the Duma must consider the issue within a week. A group
of Duma factions bringing together 130 deputies from Stability, Russia,
New Regional Policy, and the Party of Russian Unity and Concord
announced they would vote against any move to express no confidence in
the government. Glazev called the initiative an "abrupt strengthening of
the government's influence" in the Duma, NTV reported. -- Robert
Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

Rossiiskaya gazeta on 12 April, Duma Press and Information Committee
Chairman Mikhail Poltoranin defended a law that would replace state
subsidies for the mass media with tax breaks. The Duma approved the law
in its third reading on 7 April. Poltoranin said the law would help the
financial position of independent as well as state-owned publishing
houses and TV and radio companies. He told Ekho Moskvy on 11 April that
the law was passed quickly to counter the possibility of government
interference in the mass media through subsidies. A similar law passed
by the Duma last year was turned down in the Federation Council on the
grounds that it would enable the Duma to gain monopoly control over the
media by using the new funding system. Poltoranin denied those charges
and claimed the law was passed "completely" for the benefit of
journalists, to "broaden the freedom of the mass media" and give it an
"economic base." -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.

amount of cash in circulation grew by only 3% in the first quarter of
1995, First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais predicted there will
be a noticeable improvement in living standards by June, Interfax
reported on 11 April. The same day, Ekho Moskvy reported Economics
Minister Yevgeny Yasin as saying inflation will be running at only 1-
1.5% a month by the end of the year. Labor Minister Gennady Melikyan,
however, believes that inflation will soon be reduced to 4-5% a month
but it will be difficult to maintain that rate. Interviewed in Izvestiya
on 12 April, Economic Freedom Party leader Konstantin Borovoi and Vice
President of the Association of Russian Banks Vyacheslav Zakharov
rejected the government's forecast. Borovoi said talk of financial
stabilization is "pure bluff," contending that a 1% inflation rate by
year's end would result in 20 million unemployed and an intolerable
level of social tension. Zakharov argues that the predictions are faulty
because the government will be unable to cover the budget deficit with
securities and will end up turning to the Central Bank for money to pay
wages. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc.

spokesman for the Russian Interior Ministry in Moscow rejected charges
that the Russian assault on Samashki on 8 April caused heavy civilian
casualties, ITAR-TASS reported. He claimed artillery attacks were
directed only against resistance strongholds in forest areas west of the
town. Also on 11 April, the Chechen defense council chaired by President
Dzhokhar Dudaev issued a statement accusing Russia of gratuitous
brutality and affirming its commitment to a peaceful solution, Reuters
reported. Umar Avturkhanov, head of the Committee for National Accord,
told Interfax he believes federal troops will succeed in neutralizing
Dudaev's forces by mid-May. On 12 April, the Los Angeles Times quoted
Grozny Mayor Beslan Gantemirov, as charging that virtually all Russian
troops in the city are guilty of looting and added that the Chechens
 "had exchanged one fascism for another." Moscow News reported that he
has fallen out with his former opposition colleague Avturkhanov. On 11
April, Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets said the
Chechen government of national revival is "very ineffective" and that
federal authorities will have to teach its members--including Prime
Minister Salambek Khadzhiev--many skills, Interfax reported. -- Liz
Fuller, OMRI, Inc.

agreed on 11 April to a mandate for an assistance group to be set up in
Chechnya, an OSCE press release stated. The agreement had been delayed
for several weeks while the Russian delegation awaited instructions from
Moscow. Sandor Meszaros, the Hungarian diplomat appointed to head the
mission, said the mandate will cover all of Chechnya and neighboring
regions, international agencies reported. The mission will have the
following tasks: the promotion of respect for human rights; fostering
the development of democratic institutions; assistance in holding
elections; facilitating aid delivery and the return of refugees; the
promotion of a peaceful resolution to the crisis "in conformity with the
principle of the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation"; and
help in restoring law and order. It will be based in Grozny and is to
begin working in a "week or two," Meszaros said. -- Michael Mihalka,
OMRI, Inc.

Russian military establishment said to have already been approved in
principle by President Yeltsin was featured in the 11 April issue of
Komsomolskaya pravda. The paper called the reform "complex and painful"
and said implementation is likely to begin this summer. The process will
take eight to 10 years. Under the new organization, the minister of
defense would be a civilian who would formulate both "military and
military-technical policy" and provide financial and logistic support to
the armed forces. Current First Deputy Minister of Defense Andrei
Kokoshin was named as a prospect for the newly defined post. Command and
control of the armed forces would be vested in the general staff, and
its chief would be directly subordinate to the president--not to the
defense minister. The paper speculated that Col.-Gen. Andrei Nikolaev--
the current border troops commander--would fill that position. The high
commands of the individual service would be eliminated and their
functions taken over by smaller main directorates in the general staff.
A reduction in the total strength of the armed forces would ensue, first
to 1.5 million and then to 1.2 million, while the number of military
districts would be cut from eight to six, and the Baltic and Black Sea
Fleets would be eliminated. In light of the Chechnya conflict, the
Internal Troops would be considerably strengthened. In a related matter,
Interfax the same day reported that Yeltsin had ordered a government
conference on "Military Reform in Russia" to be held in Moscow on 19-21
April. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.

MORE CUTS IN ARMED FORCES THIS YEAR. The Russian armed forces will be
reduced by 217,000 troops in 1995, following a cut of 385,000 the
previous year, Col.-Gen. Mikhail Kolesnikov, the Chief of the Russian
General Staff, told the Duma on 11 April. He also said the military
cannot yet afford to transform itself into an all-professional force,
Interfax reported. As examples, he explained that a contract office
costs the state 12-15 million rubles a year compared to 3 million for a
conscript soldier. "Such a burden of expenditures will break the state's
spinal cord," he said. Kolesnikov praised the recent conscription law
passed by the Duma which lengthens military service and eliminates a
number of deferments. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.

has refused to support a 24 March Duma draft law which would have
restricted conscripts to serving only in the armed forces or the border
troops, Interfax reported on 11 April. Petr Shirshov, chairman of the
Council's Security and Defense Committee, said, "If we prohibit the
draft into the railway and interior ministry troops and other forces,
our defenses, our security, and our statehood will be harmed," Interfax
reported. Shirshov also revealed that his committee had unanimously
approved the bill to increase military service and reduce deferments and
indicated that the bill might be sent directly to President Yeltsin for
signing without debate in the Council. Meanwhile, a group of Russian
youth organizations called on students to participate in mass actions to
protest the bill and threatened a nationwide students' strike. -- Doug
Clarke, OMRI, Inc.

ANOTHER BUSINESSMAN KILLED. The vice president of the commercial
Yugorsky Bank, Vadim Yafyasov, was shot dead in Moscow on 11 April,
Western agencies reported. Police gve no possible motives for the
killing. Yafyasov is the latest victim in a series of contract killings
that have claimed the lives of numerous businessmen, bankers, and
journalists, including TV journalist Vladislav Listev and investigative
reporter Dmitry Kholodov. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc.


TURKMENISTAN ON NEUTRALITY. Turkmen Foreign Minister Boris Shikhmuradov
said President Saparmurad Niyazov has appealed to the international
community to grant Turkmenistan the status of a neutral state, Interfax
reported on 11 April. He claimed that his republic has the support of
many Asian countries and that Ukraine, which participated in tri-partite
talks on cooperation with Turkmenistan and Iran in Tehran on 8-9 April,
also supports the idea. Shikhmuradov argued that Turkmenistan could be
given the status of a neutral country on the basis of a 1907
international covenant defining neutrality. He said such status would
not be incompatible with Turkmenistan's ties to the CIS. In other news,
Indonesian President Suharto, who held talks with Niyazov on 11 April,
expressed interest in purchasing more Turkmen cotton. Although no amount
for the potential purchase has been cited, Turkmen cotton constitutes
about 1% of all Indonesian imports. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc.

gunships have been repeatedly flying attack missions along the Tajik
border since the latest round of fighting erupted there on 9 April. The
use of gunships has been vital at several besieged areas along the
border with Afghanistan. Roads leading to some military posts have been
mined or bombed by rebels, according to a Western source. Twenty-nine
border guards and 170 rebels have died in five days. Tajik President
Emomali Rakhmonov has appealed to Moscow to increase its aid and Russian
Deputy Foreign Minister Albert Chernyshev said, "complimentary measures
to reinforce the border will be taken," AFP reported. Rakhmonov also
urged UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali to put the matter
before the UN Security Council. The UN envoy currently in Tajikistan,
Ramiro Piriz-Ballon, had to call off a meeting with Tajik Islamic leader
Said Abdulloh Nouri when one of the trucks in his convoy struck a land
mine. The meeting was scheduled to take place in northeastern
Afghanistan, AFP reported. Meanwhile, Radio Kabul said Russian aircraft
had bombed positions in Afghanistan's Takhar province. Russia's air
force command denied the report. -- Bruce Pannier, 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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