Life is what happens to us while we're making other plans. - John Lennon
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 97, Part I, 19 May 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

IZVESTIYA:  YELTSIN'S TEAM CONCERNED ABOUT CHERNOMYRDIN'S INCREASING
POWER. The 19 May edition of Izvestiya claims that the appearance of
Prime Minster Viktor Chernomyrdin's right-center bloc without a strong
left-center counterweight has turned Chernomyrdin into a possible
competitor for the presidency in 1996. The prime minister's rising
prominence has alarmed the president's close advisers and may lead them
to attempt to postpone the elections. Izvestiya speculates that
President Boris Yeltsin's previously announced intention to protest the
constitutionality of the State Duma electoral law in the Constitutional
Court could force a delay in the parliamentary elections while the case
is being litigated, and lead the presidential and parliamentary
elections to be held simultaneously in June 1996. Such a move would
eliminate Chernomyrdin as a possible competitor to Yeltsin for the
presidency, because he would have to concentrate on the parliamentary
campaign. The article cited a recent comment by Federation Council
Speaker Vladimir Shumeiko that it would not be a disaster to hold both
elections together as further evidence that this scenario will be
carried out. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

MORE NEW ELECTORAL ALLIANCES. Yury Palchikov, the leader of the
Association of Investors, Shareholders, and Borrowers, announced the
creation of a new electoral bloc called People (Narod), Ekho Moskvy
reported on 18 May. Palchikov said his bloc's goal would be to provide
the people with rights they are guaranteed on paper but do not enjoy in
practice. The Afghan War Veterans' Fund and the nationalist association
Russian Union also joined the People bloc, which hopes to attract the
support of citizens who have lost their savings in commercial
enterprises. On the same day, the movement Duma-96 announced plans to
form its own electoral alliance, Interfax reported. Duma deputy and
Duma-96 chairman Anatoly Gordeev named the People's Democratic Party and
the Union of Afghan War Veterans as possible partners in his his bloc,
which he said would not be an "opposition alliance." -- Laura Belin,
OMRI, Inc.

CONSTITUTIONAL COURT JUDGES HOLD CONFERENCE. Judges from the
Constitutional Court and from constitutional courts in the regions of
the Russian Federation held a conference in Moscow, Interfax reported on
18 May. Addressing the conference, President Yeltsin's chief of staff
Sergei Filatov criticized attempts by some federation members to
"deviate from the Russian Constitution and take as much power as
possible from the center, giving nothing in return." He said stability
could never be restored under conditions of "lopsided power." Other
speakers at the conference emphasized the need for more cooperation
between constitutional courts at the federal and regional level. --
Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.

SENIOR TAX OFFICIAL ARRESTED IN VLADIVOSTOK BRIBERY SCANDAL. Lt. Col.
Alexander Gorbushin, a senior member of the Far Eastern tax police, has
been arrested on charges of falsifying documents in the bribery scandal
that cost Vladivostok's former mayor his job, ITAR-TASS reported on 17
May. Viktor Cherepkov, elected mayor of Vladivostok in June 1993, was
forcibly removed from office in March 1994 after a lengthy investigation
in which he was accused of bribe-taking. Cherepkov denied the charges,
asserting that he was the victim of a feud between a group of Primorsky
Krai industrialists backed by Governor Yevgeny Nazdratenko and the
democrats headed by himself. In December 1994, the State Prosecutor's
Office ruled that there was insufficient evidence to prove Cherepkov had
accepted bribes. Citing sources close to the Prosecutor's Office,
Segodnya reported on 17 May that other high-ranking law enforcement
officers in Primore will probably be arrested for unlawfully persecuting
Cherepkov. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc.

NUMBER OF AIR CRASHES RISING. In 1994, 302 people were killed in
airplane crashes in Russia, up from 222 in 1993, ITAR-TASS reported on
18 May quoting a transport safety official. The number of train
accidents also rose. Most of the accidents were caused by negligence and
poor maintenance of equipment. In March 1994, 75 people were killed when
an Aeroflot airbus crashed near Novokuznetsk with the pilot's 16-year-
old son at the controls. Hijacking attempts have also become more
frequent, with 120 cases reported last year. Meanwhile, a leading
aviation official cited by Reuters said Moscow's four airports need $1.5
billion for renovation work. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc.

CHERNOMYRDIN, MASKHADOV, GRACHEV ON CHECHNYA. Prime Minister
Chernomyrdin has again called for talks "at any level" on a peaceful
solution of the Chechen conflict, Interfax reported on 17 May.
Chernomyrdin argued that favorable conditions exist for resuming the
negotiating process, in which he said it was "logical" that the National
Accord Committee headed by Umar Avturkhanov should participate. He also
said the Chechen people are not responsible for "the extremist
activities of a bunch of political adventurers." Ingush President Ruslan
Aushev greeted Chernomyrdin's offer as "a real chance" to end the
conflict. In an appeal dated 17 May and summarized by Interfax, Aslan
Maskhadov, the head of the Chechen armed forces, in his capacity as a
former Soviet army colonel, appealed to Russian military officers to
stop combat operations in Chechnya, and expressed willingness to meet
with Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev "even on Russian territory."
Grachev told journalists in Beijing on 18 May that he would agree to
meet with Chechen military leaders only after they comply with the
federal government's demand that they cease hostilities and surrender
their weapons. He said he would agree to talks with Chechen President
Dzhokhar Dudaev, whom he termed "a state criminal," only with the
consent of President Yeltsin -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc.

CONTINUING SAGA OF GAS CENTRIFUGES TO IRAN. The Russian government would
have prevented the transfer of gas centrifuges to Iran on its own
initiative without American intervention, a senior official at the
Russian Foreign Ministry told Interfax 18 May. The official dismissed
charges in the media that a contract to supply the centrifuges had
already been signed. Nuclear Energy Minister Viktor Mikhailov had signed
a protocol in January "which said that contracts will be written for the
training of nuclear physicists for Iran and for the construction of a
centrifuge plant," the official said. The minister had the legal right
to sign the protocol, which the official said registered Iranian
interest in the centrifuges. Nevertheless, the official pointed out that
Mikhailov had displayed some "initiative" in the affair since, unlike
the training of nuclear specialists, a centrifuge deal would have
violated a 1992 agreement on nuclear cooperation with Iran. Mikhailov
was unauthorized to take that step. The official conceded that, until
recently, the Foreign Ministry was unaware of the details of the Nuclear
Energy Ministry's negotiations with Iran but the actual provision of the
centrifuges would have required a separate agreement approved by the
government. He said he hoped the decision not to provide the centrifuges
would "calm the Americans." -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.

GOVERNMENT CHIDES OIL INDUSTRY FOR DECLINING OUTPUT. The Russian
government, in a special commission meeting chaired by First Deputy
Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets, criticized the oil industry for failure
to reverse output declines, which affect export earnings, the Petroleum
Information Agency and Western agencies reported on 18 May. A document
distributed at the meeting reported that crude oil output declined by 3%
in the first four months of this year, compared with the same period in
1994 and drilling work dropped by 18%. About 27.2% of Russian oil wells
remain idle due to lack of funds. Refineries are operating at less than
55% capacity and many farming regions and remote northern areas are
experiencing fuel shortages. Equipment, pipelines, and other machinery
are corroding and wearing out, often resulting in major accidents. The
commission called on ministries and companies to take steps to remedy
the problem but made no specific recommendations. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI,
Inc.

GOVERNMENT TO ISSUE "GOLD CERTIFICATES." Russian President Boris Yeltsin
ordered the issuance of "gold certificates," a new type of government
security to be backed by gold, the Finance Ministry told the Financial
Information Agency on 18 May. Complying with the general conditions for
the issuance of federal bonds, 2 trillion rubles (about $400 million)
worth of certificates is slated to hit the market by the end of June. --
Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

TAJIK PRESIDENT, OPPOSITION LEADER OPEN TALKS. Tajik President Imomali
Rakhmonov met with the Islamic Renaissance Movement leader Sayid Abdullo
Nuri in Kabul on 17 and 18 May to discuss ways of ending the conflict in
Tajikistan. The talks focused on the return of Tajik refugees living in
Afghanistan and ending the armed conflict on the border of Tajikistan
and Afghanistan. Ali Akbar Turadzhonzoda, a Tajik opposition leader,
said the meetings marked "progress in inter-Tajik relations" but went on
to say that "no serious achievements were reached," Interfax reported.
The opposition has put forth three demands: an interim government in
Dushanbe made up of neutral personalities, the use of peacekeepers from
Iran, Pakistan, Russia, and Turkey to separate rival factions, and the
withdrawal of Russian troops from the Gorno-Badakhshan area, AFP
reported. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc.

TAJIK OPPOSITION GIVES WARNING. In an interview with Interfax on 18 May,
Turadzhonzoda said clandestine groups loyal to the opposition are
currently in Tajikistan, and they are capable of applying extra pressure
on the Dushanbe government "if needed." He denied charges by the Tajik
Security Ministry that members of Tajikistan's Islamic Renaissance
Movement had been detained in connection with terrorist activities in
Dushanbe. Turadzhonzoda said, "Our armed forces have never carried out
any terrorist acts against civilian targets nor individuals, nor do they
intend to perpetrate such acts." He claimed that more and more people
both inside and outside Tajikistan support the opposition. -- Bruce
Pannier, OMRI, Inc.

NIYAZOV VISITS MOSCOW. Talks between Turkmen President Saparmurad
Niyazov and his Russian counterpart, Boris Yeltsin, reflected similar
views on the matters discussed, Interfax reported on 18 May. Discussion
focused on several issues, including Russian use of military facilities
in Turkmenistan, joint operation of gas pipelines, measures to
counteract Central Asia's "Islamization," securing the Tajik-Afghan
border, and the status of the Caspian Sea. Yeltsin pledged to use his
influence to solve border problems, thereby improving Russo-Afghan
relations and helping the situation in Tajikistan. Niyazov told Interfax
the Caspian is an "internal sea" which cannot be divided, a position
that supports the Russian view but opposes that of Azerbaijan and
Kazakhstan. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc.

CIS

RUSSIA ON BELARUSIAN REFERENDUM. Unlike the Russian media, which has
voiced mixed reactions to the Belarusian referendum on 14 May, the
Belarusian media has only reported on positive reactions from Russia. On
17 and 18 May, Belarusian media reported that Russian Foreign Minister
Andrei Kozyrev was well disposed toward the results, that the Russian
State Duma is preparing a statement upholding the referendum's results
and that the St. Petersburg organization of Russian writers has written
to Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka congratulating him on the
results. In contrast, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 16 May that
President Yeltsin and Prime Minister Chernomyrdin do not care for
Lukashenka and that former acting Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar has warned
Russian taxpayers that a union with Belarus may be costly to them. The
newspaper also cast doubt on the realization of the proposed customs
union between the two states. -- Ustina Markus, 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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