Every custom was once an eccentricity; every idea was once an absurdity. - Holbrook Jackson
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 76, Part I, 18 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
pages: http://www.omri.cz/OMRI.html

RUSSIA

YELTSIN CONFIRMS THAT ELECTIONS WILL BE HELD ON SCHEDULE. "In my speech
to the Federation Assembly, I stressed that the elections will take
place in the period dictated by the constitution. I have no intention of
changing this position," President Boris Yeltsin told ITAR-TASS on 15
April as he wrapped up his vacation in Sochi. Presidential Chief of
Staff Sergei Filatov told Interfax on 17 April that the "irreconcilable
opposition" had started rumors that the elections would be postponed
because it was to their advantage "to keep society in a state of lack of
confidence and even fear for the future." Yeltsin's legal aide Mikhail
Krasnov also ruled out the possibility of holding a referendum on
prolonging the terms in office of the president and the parliament,
describing the idea as "absolutely unreal." Filatov said it is still to
early to say whether or not Yeltsin will run because the electoral law
has not been adopted yet, Vremya reported. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

MOSCOW DUMA INITIATES LEGISLATION ON EXTREMISM. The Moscow City Duma has
sent a bill outlawing extremist groups to the State Duma for adoption as
a federal law, Russian Radio and Interfax reported. The bill proposes
shutting down parties that "publicly call for establishing dictatorship,
overthrowing the constitutional system by force, warmongering, setting
up armed units, and fanning social, racial, ethnic, and religious
strife." Moscow Duma deputy Yevgeny Proshechkin said there are more than
100 extremist organizations and 200 extremist publications in the
country. He said Yeltsin's decree on fighting fascism is not sufficient
because it is not a law. He believes the current State Duma will not
pass the bill on extremism, but that by rejecting it, the chamber will
show "who is who." -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

DUMA AMENDS ITS PROCEDURES FOR VOTING NO CONFIDENCE IN THE GOVERNMENT.
The State Duma has amended its regulations to prevent political factions
from calling for a no-confidence vote in the government, Interfax
reported on 14 April. The initiation of such a vote will now require the
support of at least 90 deputies. The Democratic Party of Russia had
earlier declared its intention to place a no-confidence vote on the
agenda, but Communist deputy Vladimir Bokov, a member of the Procedural
Committee, pointed out that the faction only has eight members, a number
he considers too small for deciding such an important issue. -- Robert
Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

SPIRITUAL HERITAGE ASSOCIATION FORMS BLOC WITH COMMUNISTS. The Spiritual
Heritage Association, a patriotic movement committed to "leading Russia
out of the crisis" and "defending the interests and rights of Russians,"
joined an electoral bloc with the Communist Party of the Russian
Federation, Russian Public Television reported on 14 April. Communist
Party leader Gennady Zyuganov said recent regional elections
demonstrated the need for cooperation among all patriotic forces,
Segodnya reported on 15 April. Alexei Podberezkin, a leader of Spiritual
Heritage, praised the Communists for their commitment to patriotic
values. Podberezkin added that his association's decision to form the
electoral bloc was influenced by the idea that "if you have to join
someone, it should be the strongest." -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.

MOVEMENT FOR DEMOCRATIC REFORM PLANS ELECTION STRATEGY. Representatives
from 40 Russian regions met in Moscow to plan election strategy for the
Movement for Democratic Reform, Russian Radio reported on 16 April.
Former Moscow Mayor Gavriil Popov, the leader of the movement, sharply
criticized Russia's current "anti-democratic" and "bureaucratic" regime
and said his movement's most important task would be to convince voters
not to ignore the elections, Interfax reported the same day. Board
members invited all political groups to help form public election
committees to ensure that parliamentary and presidential elections are
held on schedule in December 1995 and June 1996. At the same time,
although he did not rule out cooperation with like-minded political
forces, Popov said the Movement for Democratic Reform intended to run
for parliament independently, Russian Radio reported. -- Laura Belin,
OMRI, Inc.

ARMS FIRM ACCUSED OF FRAUD. The Prosecutor's Office has initiated legal
proceedings against Rosvooruzhenie for tax evasion and illegal foreign
currency dealings, Radio Rossii reported on 15 April. The weapons
company, which has a monopoly on the import and export of arms in
Russia, has been accused of concealing profits of 137 billion rubles
($27.4 million), thus depriving the state of 44 billion rubles in taxes,
and carrying out foreign currency transactions worth $90 million without
a license from the Central Bank. According to Reuters on 17 April,
Russia exported $1.7 billion worth of arms and military equipment in
1994. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc.

LABOR MINISTRY SAYS NUMBER OF POOR INCREASING. About 30% to 40% of
Russians earn less than the 249,000 rubles a month viewed as the average
minimum subsistence level, Reuters reported on 17 April, citing
Vyacheslav Bobkov, head of the All-Russian Center for Living Standards
attached to the Labor Ministry. According to Ekho Moskvy, the number of
Russians living below the poverty line increased in the first quarter of
this year. On 12 April, the Duma approved at the second reading a draft
law on the subsistence minimum that would entitle those on low incomes
to receive state benefits, Interfax reported. The benefit would be equal
to the difference between a family's average per capita income and the
official subsistence minimum, which the draft legislation sets at 40% of
the average wage. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc.

MOSCOW PROMOTES INDEFINITE EXTENSION OF THE NPT. Russia will promote the
indefinite extension of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) at
the international review conference which opened on 17 April, Interfax
reported. Mikhail Kokeyev, a Russian Foreign Ministry official, said the
treaty, while not perfect, is the best one available. He said Russia,
the U.S., and the U.K. have a common position supporting the treaty. He
added that he thought a majority of the treaty's adherents will support
an indefinite extension but conference organizers are especially
concerned about the reservations of Israel, Mexico, and the Arab
countries toward the treaty. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.

GRACHEV: RUSSIA CANNOT IMPLEMENT CFE. Russia requires a "stable setting"
to implement the CFE treaty, Defense Minister Pavel Grachev told
Interfax on 16 April. He said the situation has changed significantly in
the Northern Caucasus since the treaty was signed and the "leaders of
the former Soviet Union did a wrong thing agreeing to sign this
document." Grachev said there are ways to circumvent the treaty but said
he preferred to revise it. He said Russia cannot observe all of the
flank restrictions agreed to by the former Soviet Union. -- Michael
Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.

SCIENTISTS EXPRESS CONCERN OVER IRANIAN NUCLEAR DEAL. Russian nuclear
aid to Iran "will undoubtedly lead to the creation of nuclear weapons in
Iran," argued two Russian scientists in a letter to Izvestiya published
on 18 April. Since the safety aspects of the nuclear reactor are
underfunded, the "chief aim is plutonium production and not a safe"
power station, the scientists said. They expressed concern at the
prospects of an Iranian nuclear weapon, especially after the "colossal
harm" done the Islamic people of Chechnya. Nevertheless, they argued
that the deal should go ahead because if Russia refrained, another
country would provide Iran with the reactors, and "the possibility of
big earnings...is opening," something the "impoverished families of
scientists" have been awaiting for several years now. -- Michael
Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.

RUSSIAN FORCES FAIL TO TAKE BAMUT. Up to 30 Russian troops were killed
on 14 April in two unsuccessful attempts to dislodge supporters of
Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev from the village of Bamut in
southwestern Chechnya, Russian and Western agencies reported. A Russian
military spokesman denied Chechen claims that one Russian fighter
aircraft and two combat helicopters were shot down during the assault.
Following the Chechen resistance fighters' rejection on 16 April of a
Russian ultimatum to surrender their weapons and retreat from the
village, Russian artillery bombardment of Bamut resumed on 17 April
according to ITAR-TASS. Also on 17 April, Interfax quoted the head of
the Chechen Government of National Rebirth, Salambek Khadzhiev, as
claiming that both former Russian parliament Chairman Ruslan Khasbulatov
and former Chechen-Ingush Obkom First Secretary Doku Zavgaev had
rejected an offer to be named Chechen prime minister. Meanwhile, former
Chechen parliament Chairman Yusup Soslambekov has drawn up yet another
draft proposal, summarized by Interfax, for resolving the Chechen
conflict and regulating future relations between Chechnya and the
Russian Federation. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc.

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

AZERBAIJAN TO HOLD ELECTIONS IN OCTOBER. A new election law is to be
submitted to the Azerbaijan People's Assembly shortly and then subjected
to a nationwide referendum in preparation for parliamentary elections
scheduled for October 1995, according to President Heidar Aliev as
quoted by Interfax on 16 April. A new constitution will also be adopted
this year after nationwide discussion. On 17 April, the head of the
opposition Democratic Party of Azerbaijan, Leila Yunusova, told a press
conference in Baku that the current Azerbaijani leadership is seeking to
impose a dictatorship, and therefore seized upon the police rebellion
last month as a pretext for large-scale repression even though none of
the existing political parties in Azerbaijan had supported the revolt,
Interfax reported. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc.

MANY CASUALTIES IN BOMBING IN NORTHERN AFGHANISTAN. Although Russian
officials continue to deny that CIS planes are making strikes in
Afghanistan, Kabul Radio reported a series of attacks in the Takhar
province recently. Provincial officials said the Chai Ab and Farkhar
districts were pounded by Russian jets on 11 and 12 April but the worst
bombing occurred in Taloqan on 13 April. Estimates cite some 100 dead
and 120 wounded in the attack which came on the weekly bazaar day, a
time when the city is filled with people from adjoining villages, AFP
reported. A European-based emergency relief organization, Medecins Sans
Frontieres, received a convoy of medicines in order to treat the
victims, according to AFP. Taloqan is considered to be a base for Tajik
opposition forces, a Western source said. In response to Moscow's
accusations that Afghanistan is aiding the Tajik opposition, Kabul
claimed that it has given only "humanitarian aid" to Tajik refugees. The
Afghan embassy in Moscow protested the "attack on a foreign country
which violated all international rules," AFP reported. -- Bruce Pannier,
OMRI, Inc.

MOBIL OIL STRIKES DEAL WITH KAZAKHSTAN. The U.S. oil company Mobil
announced that it had concluded a deal with Kazakhstan on 17 April to
explore for oil and gas in Kazakhstan's northwestern area. Mobil Oil
Tulpar, a subsidiary of Mobil Oil, announced the signing of a joint
venture to be called Tulpar Munai which will explore and develop 1.6
million hectares of territory, Interfax reported. -- Bruce Pannier,
OMRI, Inc.

CIS

UKRAINIAN-RUSSIAN TALKS. Ukraine's acting Prime Minister Yevhen Marchuk
is scheduled to arrive in Moscow on 17 April for further talks with
Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets on the Russian-
Ukrainian friendship treaty, international agencies reported. The latest
round of talks is to focus on the issue of where to base the countries'
respective shares of the Black Sea Fleet. On 15 April, Reuters reported
that President Yeltsin said he would not sign the treaty unless the
Crimean issue is resolved, which represents a departure from Moscow's
earlier stance that treated it as an internal Ukrainian affair. It was
Yeltsin's first official reaction to Kiev's recent annulment of the
Crimean Constitution and the abolition of the Crimean Presidency in
March. The moves had led to heated debates in the Russian State Duma and
several deputies as well as Crimean officials have been appealing to the
Russian government to take decisive steps to protect the Russian
majority in Crimea. On 17 April, Yeltsin spoke with his Ukrainian
counterpart Leonid Kuchma on the phone and said he would meet with
Marchuk during the latest round of talks, Interfax reported. -- 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
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