When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece. - John Ruskin

No. 79, Part I, 21 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


KOZYREV SAYS IT AGAIN. On 20 April, Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev
repeated his statement that Russia has the right to use its military to
defend ethnic Russians living abroad. Kozyrev defended his comments by
saying that U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher has asserted an
American right to use military force to defend its interests abroad,
international agencies reported. Kozyrev expressed surprise at the
strong foreign reaction to his comments. Russian Foreign Ministry
spokesman Grigory Karasin told Interfax that Kozyrev's statements do not
signal a change in Russian foreign policy and Kozyrev himself said he
has been saying similar things over the last five years. Karasin called
the Baltic States' reaction "somewhat strange." He stressed that
Kozyrev's comments are not related to the minister's Duma election
campaign. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.

National Credit Bank and the Olbi-Trust investment company, has joined
the 13-member board of directors of Izvestiya, Kommersant-Daily reported
on 20 April. Olbi-Trust owns a 6% share in Izvestiya, and Boyko has
maintained informal links with the newspaper in the past. Kommersant-
Daily suggested that although Boyko is "a staunch centrist and advocate
of the status quo," his new position is unlikely to change Izvestiya's
editorial policy. The paper speculated that Boyko joined the board "not
because he wants to change the paper's line, but precisely because its
current line suits him." In March, Boyko resigned as executive committee
chairman of Russia's Democratic Choice to help form the pro-presidential
Duma group Stability. Soon after, he suggested in an interview with
Kommersant-Daily that Russia's "big eight" banks favor postponing
parliamentary and presidential elections for at least two years to
stabilize the country's political and economic climate. -- Laura Belin,
OMRI, Inc.

ELECTIONS. Oleg Shenin, chairman of the hard-line Union of Communist
Parties, said Russia's Communist parties would form a bloc for this
year's parliamentary elections, Interfax reported on 20 April. Shenin
said 21 Communist parties from across the former Soviet Union would hold
a June congress in Moscow to prepare an election strategy. He added that
the bloc would nominate one candidate for next year's scheduled
presidential elections. Viktor Anpilov, leader of the extremist group
Workers' Russia and the Russian Communist Workers' Party, told Interfax
that the bloc intended to attract voters who boycotted the December 1993
parliamentary elections. Shenin and Anpilov are calling for the
reconstruction of the USSR as a communist state. They have rejected
Gennady Zyuganov's Communist Party of the Russian Federation as a
compromising, "social-democratic" party rather than a genuinely
communist one. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.

lieutenant gives low ratings to politicians across the spectrum, from
Vladimir Zhirinovsky to Yegor Gaidar, according to a study published in
Izvestiya on 21 April. Among the country's leaders, the most popular are
Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg
Soskovets, and State Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin, although opinions about
those figures range from indifferent to well-disposed. The study
demonstrates that none of the current political parties have much
support among officers, including Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party
which had strong military support in the December 1993 elections.
However, the data also show that a well-known general, such as Boris
Gromov or Alexander Lebed, could attract the support of many military
voters. In the presidential elections, there is no clear front-runner
among the candidates, and the researchers hypothesize that the military
vote will be determined more by individual preferences than corporate
interests. The study asserts that there is little support among the
officers for a military takeover of the government, but points to the
fact that the military is distancing itself from politics in general,
and the current incumbents in particular, as a cause for concern. --
Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

VEDENKIN REGISTERED AS CANDIDATE. Alexei Vedenkin, who said on
television that he would execute Duma members Sergei Yushenkov and
Sergei Kovalev if he came to power, has submitted the necessary
documents to run as a candidate in a Duma by-election on 14 May, Russian
Radio reported. He needed more than 5,000 signatures from the residents
of Kolomna in Moscow oblast to be registered for the vote. Vedenkin will
soon be tried for his threats to kill the outspoken critics of the
Chechen war, but the radio station warns that a conviction will only
make him more popular among voters. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

YELTSIN DOUBLES MINIMUM WAGE. President Boris Yeltsin has signed a
compromise bill increasing the minimum wage from 20,500 rubles ($4) a
month to 43,700 ($8.60) as of 1 May, Russian Public Television reported
on 20 April. An intermediate rate of 34,400 ($6.80) rubles will apply in
April. In February, Yeltsin had vetoed a draft that raised the minimum
to 54,100 rubles ($10.70) on the grounds that the country could not
afford it. According to Finance Minister Vladimir Panskov, the new rate
will entail additional expenditure of 3 trillion rubles ($592 million)
for the federal government and 6 trillion rubles ($1.2 billion) for
local authorities--spending that is "tenable" as far as the budget is
concerned, AFP reported. Also on 20 April, Yeltsin signed a law
increasing the minimum pension to 43,739 rubles ($8.65) a month as of 1
May; other pensions will be raised proportionally. When parliament
approved the bill last week, Deputy Labor Minister Valery Yanvarev was
quoted by Interfax as saying it could produce a "tough monetary
situation," because it would require an estimated 1 trillion rubles
extra per month. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc.

CONFUSION OVER CHECHNYA CEASEFIRE. Sporadic fighting continued between
federal troops and Chechen forces around the southwestern village of
Bamut, Interfax reported on 20 April. An aide to Russian President Boris
Yeltsin subsequently denied an unconfirmed ITAR-TASS report on 20 April
that Yeltsin had ordered an unconditional ceasefire in Chechnya,
according to AFP. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc.

Lukin, chairman of the Duma Foreign Affairs Committee, said his country
may take the "Central Asian" path of using perfunctory referenda to
extend presidential terms, deferring parliamentary elections, and
restricting civil rights, if the West abandons Russia after the 9 May V-
E Day celebrations, Interfax reported on 20 April. Lukin said the West
has failed to appreciate President Yeltsin's commitment to
constitutional democracy, which is expressed by his willingness to hold
parliamentary and presidential elections on schedule. He said Russia
faces enormous geopolitical difficulties that could be compounded if it
departed from its voluntary transition to democracy. Lukin added,
"constitutional issues are primarily our internal affair. However, the
situation is such that this also concerns our national security." --
Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.


INTER-TAJIK TALKS DEADLOCKED. The talks that opened in Moscow on 19
April between representatives of the Tajik government, the opposition
Islamic Renaissance Movement of Tajikistan, the UN, and the Russian
Foreign Ministry broke off almost immediately, according to Interfax on
19 April and Nezavisimaya gazeta on 20 April. The talks were cut off
after Akbar Turadzhonzoda, head of the Tajik opposition delegation,
issued a statement protesting Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev's
affirmation at the opening ceremony that Russia would respond "with all
necessary means" to recent attacks against its troops stationed on the
border between Afghanistan and Tajikistan's Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous
Region. On 20 April, Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov reiterated his
readiness to meet with opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri "at any time
and place," Interfax reported. At a 20 April meeting with UN
representative Ramiro Piriz Ballon, the opposition delegation announced
it would only participate in the fourth round of UN-mediated talks on
resolving the conflict on condition that government troops withdraw from
Gorno-Badakhshan and Russian army and border troops observe the
September 1994 ceasefire agreement, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 21
April. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc.

Minister Otar Patsatsia has denied rumors that the visit by Iranian
President Ali Akbar Rafsanjani to a Tbilisi aircraft factory during his
three-day official visit to Georgia (his first to a CIS member state) is
linked to plans for the purchase of SU-25 fighter aircraft, Western
agencies reported. A similar denial was issued at the time of Georgian
head of state Eduard Shevardnadze's official visit to Tehran in January
1993. No details were released of Rafsanjani's 45-minute talk with
Shevardnadze. Rafsanjani had stated before traveling to Georgia on 19
April that Iran is interested in using Georgia's transportation
facilities--including the Black Sea ports of Poti and Batumi which he
will visit--to export Iranian goods to Europe. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc.


Council extended its peacekeeping mandate in Tajikistan until the end of
1995 subject to the approval of CIS leaders, Interfax reported on 19
April. CIS Executive Secretary Ivan Korotchenya said the 21 April
meeting of CIS foreign and defense ministers may also consider extending
the mandate of CIS peacekeepers in Abkhazia, due to expire on 16 May.
However, he said the decision would require a formal request by Georgian
leader Eduard Shevardnadze. Korotchenya admitted the 1992 CIS collective
security treaty "did not work as it should." He stressed that
strengthening CIS military cooperation is important, considering NATO's
intention to expand. Meanwhile, Russian Defense Minister Grachev said
the situation in Tajikistan also demonstrates the need for greater
cooperation in the CIS between frontier troops and the military. --
Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.

commander-in-chief of the Black Sea Fleet, told Interfax on 20 April
that Ukrainian insistence on using Sevastopol as their fleet's
headquarters was the main problem hindering a solution to the problem of
the fleet's division, Interfax reported. The two countries have already
agreed that Sevastopol would be the main base for the Russian Black Sea
Fleet. Former fleet commander Admiral Igor Kasatonov--now a first deputy
commander-in-chief of the Russian navy--said Ukraine's goal in the talks
is to push Russia out of Crimea. He said Kiev is now insisting on the
withdrawal of Russian naval aviation units, coast guards, marines, and
other land-based units. He complained that during three years of talks,
the Ukrainians have failed to suggest anything reasonable. "Today they
offer one thing, tomorrow another, and the day after tomorrow they
revive the original version," he said. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.

constitution for adoption by all CIS member states is currently being
drafted, according to unconfirmed information circulated at a meeting of
the National Democratic Party of Georgia in early March and published in
Iveria-Ekspresi on 10-13 March. The report claims that Kartlos
Gharibashvili, the Georgian chairman of the CIS Inter-Parliamentary
Legal Commission, has initiated plans for a "super-parliament" for CIS
member states. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc.

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez

The OMRI Daily Digest offers the latest news from the former Soviet
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