If we are to live together in peace, we must first come to know each other better. - Lyndon B. Johnson
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 83, Part I, 27 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

GAS PIPELINE EXPLODES IN KOMI REPUBLIC. In the early hours of 27 April,
a major gas export pipeline exploded 13 kilometers from the city of
Ukhta in the Komi Republic, according to Western agencies. No deaths or
injuries were reported, but several square kilometers of woodland were
set on fire. The pilot of a Japan Airlines plane en route from Frankfurt
to Japan said he saw a column of smoke and flames rising 3,000-6,000
meters above the region. According to the Severgazprom gas company, the
fire is under control and gas is now flowing through a backup pipeline.
The Komi Republic has been the site of many accidents recently, due to
aging pipelines and low safety standards. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc.

CHERNOMYRDIN ON RIGHT-CENTER BLOC. All the members of the government
have agreed to join his new right-center bloc, Chernomyrdin announced
during his trip to Chelyabinsk 26 April, NTV reported. The founding
congress will take place in May and the still-unnamed movement's
leadership will be elected then. Chernomyrdin said he would like to have
State Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin's support in the elections, Interfax
reported. Sergei Shakhrai was the main instigator of the bloc, according
to Russian Public Television, which cited speculation in Moscow. --
Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

RYBKIN ON NEW LEFT-CENTER BLOC. Rybkin said the left-center and right-
center blocs announced yesterday would win two-thirds of the seats in
the Duma, Russian Television reported 26 April. He saw much room for
cooperation, but said the two blocs would disagree over several
economic, domestic, and foreign policy issues. Although Russian
President Boris Yeltsin said yesterday he supported Rybkin as the bloc
leader, Rybkin continued to down play reports that he would lead or even
join the new bloc, Interfax reported. The numerous parties involved will
hold meetings in May that will decide this issue. Rybkin said that he
had been negotiating with more than 10 parties since September on the
idea of forming the bloc, adding that the Agrarian party would likely
join. Ekho Moskvy and Russian Television reported that Agrarian Party
leader Mikhail Lapshin, who is in the Far East, said that the party
would campaign separately in close coordination with the communists. NTV
quoted Agrarian Party member Nikolai Kharitonov as saying that the party
was unlikely to join the bloc and that Rybkin had no intention of
leaving his party. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

POLITICIANS' REACTION TO THE BLOCS. Vladimir Zhirinovsky said that if
the new blocs attract popular support, elections will go on as
scheduled, and if not, the government will do everything possible to
wreck them, NTV reported. Gennady Zyuganov, leader of the communists,
said he wants to consult with Rybkin and the members of his party, but
he does not see a "serious basis" for the two blocs, Russian Public
Television reported. He doubted that the Agrarian Party would defect
from the communists, but said the situation would become clearer after
the May holidays. Yegor Gaidar, leader of Russia's Democratic Choice, a
strong Yeltsin supporter until Chechnya, said that it was natural for
the authorities to build a political base after the split over how to
handle the breakaway republic and other issues of military reform. He
said that there was room for dialogue between his party and
Chernomyrdin's bloc on economic issues, Russian Public Television
reported. However, his party has no intention of joining the bloc
because of disagreements over Chechnya, Interfax reported. -- Robert
Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

LEBED LIKELY TO ENTER POLITICS. Defense Minister Pavel Grachev has
offered 14th Army Commander, Lt. Gen. Alexander Lebed the post of deputy
commander in the Transbaikal Military District, Radio Rossii reported on
26 April. Grachev said Lebed's recent political comments had been
"noticed" in the Defense Ministry, but Lebed had ignored requests to
stop. Although Grachev said he "personally" hoped to keep him in the
armed forces, Lebed has  indicated that he will not accept any military
post outside the Transdniester region. Dmitry Rogozin, head of the
Congress of Russian Communities, told Interfax on 26 April that if the
14th Army is disbanded, Lebed will develop military policy and military
reform proposals for the Congress of Russian Communities. Rogozin said
22 regional organizations of the "patriotic" movement have invited Lebed
to speak. Meanwhile, the Duma unanimously passed a resolution on 26
April condemning the proposed withdrawal of the 14th Army, charging that
the move would aggravate tension in the area, Russian Public Television
reported. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.

GRYZUNOV WINS CASE AGAINST ROSSIISKAYA GAZETA. The President's Judicial
Chamber on Information Disputes reprimanded the official government
newspaper Rossiiskaya gazeta for "abusing the freedom of expression and
legal and ethical standards" in its 14 March denunciation of State Press
Committee Chairman Sergei Gryzunov, Interfax reported on 26 April. The
paper alleged that Gryzunov had mismanaged funds and showed favoritism
in distributing press subsidies. Although the chamber has no power to
enforce its decisions, it recommended that the government take
"appropriate measures" against Rossiiskaya gazeta. A group of Duma
deputies recently questioned the chamber's constitutionality on the
grounds that it could give Yeltsin more control over the mass media. For
his part, Gryzunov proposed setting up a public council on information
policy and journalistic ethics to supplement the chamber, Interfax
reported on 26 April. On 27 February, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin
announced that Gryzunov would be fired for unspecified reasons, but
Yeltsin intervened and suspended the dismissal. -- Laura Belin, OMRI,
Inc.

RUSSIA TO FLOUT CFE LIMITS IN CAUCASUS. Col. Gen. Vladimir Semyonov,
commander of Russia's ground forces, told Interfax on 26 April that the
58th Army will be created in the North Caucasus Military District by 1
June. He said it would be created on the basis of the (8th Armored)
Corps now in Vladikavkaz--the capital of North Ossetia--and new
formations. All units would be fully manned. Semyonov acknowledged that
the results would violate the terms of the Conventional Armed Forces in
Europe (CFE) Treaty, but said that "interests of Russia's security and
integrity should prevail over the terms of this document." -- Doug
Clarke, OMRI, Inc.

YELTSIN URGED NOT TO SIGN CONTROVERSIAL DRAFT LAW. The Federation
Council failed to consider a controversial conscription law within the
14 days mandated by the constitution and it has been forwarded to
President Boris Yeltsin for his signature. Ten State Duma deputies had
urged the president to return the bill to the Duma for additional
consideration, Interfax reported 26 April. The deputies complained that
the law had been hastily amended several times and passed quickly in
three readings at once at a 7 April closed meeting of the State Duma
following a speech by the military's chief of staff, Col. Gen. Mikhail
Kolesnikov. It would increase conscription from 18 months to two years,
and authorize drafting university, college, and vocational school
graduates. Educators and student groups have campaigned against the law.
-- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.

BALTIC FLEET PASSES, BUT WITH LOW MARKS. Admiral Feliks Gromov, Russian
Navy commander in chief, said the Baltic Fleet passed a recent
inspection, but the results could have been better. On 26 April,
Krasnaya zvezda quoted Gromov as saying shortcomings that "permeate
practically all aspects of the fleet's daily life--from staff competence
to the physical fitness of the officers--can only be eradicated with
strict supervision and strict accountability for the state of affairs."
Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.

RUSSIA MAY PULL OUT OF BOSNIA IF FIGHTING RESUMES. Russia may withdraw
its peacekeepers from Bosnia if large-scale fighting resumes, Interfax
reported 26 April. Alexander Zotov, Russia's special envoy for the
former Yugoslavia and representative to the international Contact Group,
warned that an increase in hostilities "might create unbearable
conditions for UN peacekeepers." Zotov criticized both sides, the Bosnia
Serbs because they have not recognized the Contact Group's plan for
settling the conflict and the Bosnian Muslims because they began their
spring offensive before the truce officially came to an end. Russia will
continue to pursue a solution through the contact group, Zotov said. --
Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.

YELTSIN SIGNS LAW ON CENTRAL BANK. President Yeltsin signed a decree
amending the Russian Federation's Law on the Central Bank, the Financial
Information Agency reported on 26 April. Sources in the president's
administration told the news agency that the law, which allows the
president to control the Central Bank more efficiently, was largely "the
result of a compromise between the executive and legislative
authorities." The State Duma will also analyze the Central Bank's annual
figures and draw strategic guidelines for its policy. The deputies have
also reserved the right to appoint members of the bank's Board of
Directors, who will be nominated by the Central Bank's chairman with the
president's approval. Yeltsin's nomination of Tatyana Paramonova, the
bank's acting chairperson, for the position has been pending for six
months. The State Duma plans to discuss the nomination by the end of
May. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.

YELTSIN SIGNS INVESTORS' INTEREST DECREE. Yeltsin signed a decree on 26
April on measures to protect investors' interests and bring legal
entities without appropriate licenses in the financial and stock markets
into conformity with the law, Interfax reported. Yeltsin's economic
advisor, Alexander Livshits, said that the decree all financial
organizations to get a license within three months or face foreclosure.
Organizations that shut down must return investors' capital. -- Thomas
Sigel, OMRI, Inc.

GOVERNMENT TO INCREASE IMPORT DUTIES. The Russian government plans to
increase the customs duties levied on food imports in an effort to
support the farm sector, Interfax reported on 26 April. Deputy Prime
Minister Alexander Zaveryukha, who oversees agricultural policy, said
that the import rate will rise from 8% to 15% for meat, and from 15% to
20% for butter. Rates for sugar will be as high as 20% and the wool rate
will be 25%. Zaveryukha estimated that the duty hike would add an
additional 6.5 trillion rubles to the 13.3 trillion ruble government
appropriation for the agriculture sector. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.

TRANSCAUCASIA & CENTRAL ASIA

TAJIK GOVERNMENT AND OPPOSITION COME TO AGREEMENT. On the day the
extended ceasefire agreement was to end, representatives of the Dushanbe
government and the opposition agreed at talks in Moscow to extend the
often ignored agreement through 26 May, according to Interfax. The two
sides also agreed to hold talks again on 22 May in the Kazakh capital,
Almaty, before the meeting between Tajik president Emomali Rakhmonov and
opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri scheduled for 26 May in Kabul,
Afghanistan. ITAR-TASS quotes democratic opposition leader Otakhon
Latifi as saying the next round of negotiations will include talks about
a new constitution, new electoral law and a more open political system
in Tajikistan. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc.

CIS

PANSKOV DENIES CIS DEPENDENT ON RUSSIAN AID. Russian Finance Minister
Vladimir Panskov denied charges that Russia was underwriting almost half
of the other CIS countries' economies, Interfax reported 26 April. Its
economic and financial aid to the other CIS countries was "very
insubstantial," and Russia has agreements to provide credits only to
Belarus, Tajikistan, and Armenia, he said. "For example, we will give
credits in the form of uranium fuel for the Armenian atomic power
station and raw materials for the light and food industry to Belarus and
Tajikistan," Panskov said. He added that Russia still provides $500
million worth of credits to the Third World, but added, "This is not a
great sum of money." -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Carla Atkinson

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