Жизнь слишком коротка, чтобы быть незначительной. - Б. Дизраэли

No. 82, Part I, 26 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


CHERNOMYRDIN FORMS ELECTORAL BLOC. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin
will lead a centrist movement of democratic forces for the upcoming
parliamentary elections, Russian and western agencies reported on 25
April. Chernomyrdin said the bloc was created to prevent extremists from
winning the upcoming elections and to help form a government that will
be backed by a majority in the Duma after the elections, Ekho Moskvy
reported. Chernomyrdin confirmed that parliamentary elections will be
held on schedule and said his movement would "create the conditions for
normal work" in Russia. The movement hopes to attract widespread
regional support; Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Shakrai's Party of
Russian Unity and Accord and the Duma groups Stability and New Regional
Policy will join Chernomyrdin's bloc, Russian Television reported.
Shakhrai said a strong centrist movement will help "stabilize the
situation" in Russia and "overcome the chaos" that has characterized the
parliamentary campaign to date, Ekho Moskvy reported. In the past,
Chernomyrdin has described himself as a professional economic planner,
not a politician. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.

the new Chernomyrdin bloc, which he said would attract voters who value
"experience and professionalism," Interfax reported on 25 April.
Appearing on Russian Television, Duma deputy Vyacheslav Nikonov, a
member of Shakhrai's party, said the movement would "express the
interests of voters" and facilitate "coordinated actions" among all
branches of power. Others denounced the new bloc. Yabloko leader Grigory
Yavlinsky asserted on Moscow Television that having realized the
government could not credibly postpone elections, Chernomyrdin's main
goal was to win the elections and "leave everything like it is today."
Liberal Democratic Party member and Duma Deputy Chairman Alexander
Vengerovsky complained, "The government is supposed to manage the
country . . . . It is when these people go in for politics instead of
working in their offices that the country sinks into chaos," Ekho Moskvy
reported. Duma Constitutional Legislation Committee Chairman Vladimir
Isakov of the Agrarian party called Chernomyrdin's announcement
"improper," since the constitution forbids the government from
participating in politics, Interfax reported. A Radio Rossii commentator
predicted that the prime minister would have trouble leading an
electoral bloc and the cabinet at the same time. -- Laura Belin, OMRI,

welcomed the new left-center bloc that will apparently be led by Duma
Speaker Ivan Rybkin, according to Stability's Alexei Alexandrov, who met
with Yeltsin 25 April, Interfax reported. The coalition includes Mikhail
Shmakov's Federation of Independent Trade Unions, Vasily Lipitsky's
Social Democratic Union, the Russian United Industrial Party, Yury
Petrov's Union of Realists, and Lyudmila Vartazarova's Socialist
Workers' Party. Rybkin, a member of the Agrarian Party, neither
confirmed nor denied that he will lead the new coalition, Russian TV and
Interfax reported. He said he plans to discuss the issue of the Agrarian
Party joining the group with party leader Mikhail Lapshin when Lapshin
returns from his tour of the country This bloc will seek to attract the
votes that might otherwise go to the Congress of Russian Communities,
former Vice President Alexander Rutskoi's Derzhava, Vladimir
Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party, and the Communists. Viktor
Zorkaltsev, deputy leader of the communist group in the State Duma, said
that the communists are prepared to consider all proposals about forming
a bloc, Interfax reported. The Russia deputies' group is likely to join,
according to its chairman Igor Shichanin. That group now brings together
38 Duma members. NTV speculated that the Women of Russia would also
enter the alliance. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

REACTION TO APPEARANCE OF BOTH BLOCS. Rossiiskie vesti of 26 April
evaluated the appearance of Chernomyrdin's and Rybkin's bloc positively
as proof that "Russian politics is becoming more civilized." The
simultaneous appearance of the two blocs appears to be part of Yeltsin's
efforts to combat the rise of political extremism, signaled first by his
23 March decree on fascism. Radio Rossii, however, said that the blocs'
main weakness is that voters will have trouble differentiating their
programs, both of which stress continuity rather than radical changes.
The station predicts that such an approach will not attract many voters.
Russian Television speculates that Chernomyrdin and Rybkin will now be
the main contenders for the post of the Russian presidency in 1996. --
Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

LEBED TO RESIGN HIS POST? Reforms ordered by Defense Minister Pavel
Grachev may prompt 14th Army commander, Lieut-Gen. Alexander Lebed to
resign, Russian agencies reported on 25 April. Grachev's decree will
reorganize the 14th Army command, forcing Lebed to choose between
several other military positions offered to him, presumably not in the
Trans-Dniester region of Moldova. Lebed told Ekho Moskvy that he had not
yet decided how to respond to Grachev's order. "I will not agree to
assume any other office," Lebed said. "So in all probability, the man
you are speaking to is a potential pensioner." An NTV correspondent
speculated that if he resigns, Lebed may join the election campaign as a
leader of the Congress of Russian Communities. Lebed's threat to resign
may foreshadow deeper involvement of military men in Russian politics,
according to an observer on military matters for Moskovskie novosti. --
Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.

Minister of Justice Valentin Kovalev to be a member of the Security
Council, the president's press service announced 25 April according to
Interfax. Kovalev's appointment as Justice Minister was controversial
because he was part of the Communist bloc in the Duma. Since joining the
cabinet, he has supported the Kremlin policy in Chechnya. The Security
Council has played a major role in formulating that policy. -- Robert
Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

working group flew to the U.S. on 25 April to discuss upcoming joint
peacekeeping exercises with their American counterparts. Colonel Nikolai
Malyshev, head of the ground forces' press center, told Interfax that
preliminary planning for the exercises, which will be held in the U.S.
in 1996, would involve more than 100 service personnel from each
country. The Russian contingent will come from the 27th Motorized Rifle
Division--one of two divisions designated for peacekeeping roles. --
Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.

WORLD BANK APPROVES LOANS FOR RUSSIA. On 25 April, Russia and the World
Bank signed loan agreements totaling $555.8 million to fund economic
reform and the cleanup of a massive oil spill near the Arctic Circle,
Western agencies reported. The World Bank's commitments to Russia now
amount to $3.6 billion. The new loans include $400 million to support
the creation of private housing markets in a number of cities; $16.8
million to modernize the tax system; $40 million for training personnel
in the financial industry; and $99 million to help clean up more than
100,000 tons of oil that leaked last year from a pipeline in the Komi
Republic. Officials have described the last project as "a race against
time" to contain the oil before the spring thaw. Also on 25 April,
Interfax reported a fracture in an oil pipeline in Tyumen Oblast that
caused a spill covering 30 hectares. The accident was said to have
occurred on 19 April, but the management of the local oil company
Megionneftgaz did not report it. --  Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc.

RUBLE RATE WILL NOT BE FIXED. Russia's Economy Minister Yevgeny Yasin
said in a 25 April Interfax interview that the "national currency will
stabilize without the need to fix the rate." He commented that the ruble
rate's gradual slide in line with inflation would be more favorable for
Russia. Yasin said that a steady ruble and rising prices would affect
home producers and exporters. As imports become cheaper, it may create
the illusion that the market is being saturated, prices are falling and
living standards are stabilizing, he said. Yasin said the Central Bank
itself make a decision about interest rates. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.

RUBLE SLIDES 16 POINTS AGAINST DOLLAR. The ruble slid 16 points on 25
April to 5,081 rubles to $1 on MICEX trading, the Financial Information
Agency reported. Market trading volume stood at $85.04 million for
initial demand of $85.06 million against supply of $65.4 million. --
Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.

the right to develop two major oil fields and Fuel and Energy Minister
Yuri Shafranik is in Baghdad to discuss possible cooperation on a range
of energy projects, ITAR-TASS reported 25 April. However, any agreements
would take effect only after the UN lifts sanctions against Iraq. When
asked why Russia was selected to develop fields that are in the
southeast of the country, Iraqi Oil Minister Safa' Hadi Jawad al-Habubi
said, "Russians are our friends, and we are maintaining good relations
with them." -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.


KAZAKHSTAN FREE OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS. All Soviet-era nuclear warheads have
been transferred from Kazakhstan to Russia, Colonel General Viktor
Yesin, Russian Strategic Missile Forces chief of staff, told ITAR-TASS
on 25 April. When Kazakhstan became independent, it had 104 giant SS-18
intercontinental ballistic missiles on its territory, each loaded with
10 nuclear warheads. Yesin said the transfer was completed 24 April.
According to the terms of the Lisbon protocol to the Strategic Arms
Reduction Treaty (START-1), Kazakhstan--along with Belarus and Ukraine--
pledged to eliminate the strategic nuclear weapons on their territories
by 1999. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.

reacted quickly to Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma's 24 April
statement that Ukraine could not accept Russia's proposals on the Black
Sea Fleet issue--particularly its demand for all of Sevastopol as a
Russian naval base. On 25 April, a "high official" of the ministry told
ITAR-TASS that Russia's stand on the issue was "fair morally and
justified" legally. The government favors establishing separate bases
for the two resulting fleets, "which is the exact wording of the
agreement on state-by-stage settlement of the problem signed by the
presidents of Russia and Ukraine in April 1994." Kuchma said that the
Black Sea Fleet problem was one of territory and not ships. The Russian
official countered that there had been nothing in Russia's stand on
territory during the three years of negotiations that had warranted the
slightest Ukrainian concern. "Those who raise this problem now," he
added, "are inventing it." -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.


CIS TO STUDY JOINT STAFF. Lieutenant General Leonid Ivashov, secretary
of the CIS Council of Defense Ministers, said 24 April that the CIS
defense ministers plan to set up a Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee of
the CIS Armed Forces, Kommersant-Daily reported the next day. The
committee will be comprised of the chiefs of the general staffs of the
CIS national forces, who will conduct a "profound analysis of program,
theoretical, and practical matters and the coordination of the
operations of CIS armies' staffs," Ivashov said. -- Michael Mihalka,
OMRI, Inc.

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Carla Atkinson

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