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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 Union and East-Central and Southeastern Europe. It is published Monday through Friday by the Open Media Research Institute. The Daily Digest is distributed electronically via the OMRI-L list. 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