The greatest happiness is to know the source of unhappiness. - Dostoevsky
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 98, Part I, 22 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

MORE ACCUSATIONS LEVELED AGAINST CHERNOMYRDIN BLOC . . . Passing a
resolution advanced by the Communist and Agrarian parties, the State
Duma asked the Justice Ministry to examine the legality of the
organizing tactics used by Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's center-
right bloc Our Home Is Russia, Interfax reported on 19 May. Communist
Duma deputy Anatoly Lukyanov said Chernomyrdin's movement had violated
President Boris Yeltsin's June 1991 decree banning local branches of
political parties at work enterprises. That decree was aimed at
destroying the Communist Party's network of local branches, and Lukyanov
said the ban should apply to all political parties equally. Also on 19
May, Duma Security Committee Chairman and Communist Party member Viktor
Ilyukhin filed a request with the Prosecutor General's Office to examine
whether state funds were illegally used to finance the founding congress
of Our Home Is Russia. Meanwhile, although Deputy Prime Minister Sergei
Shakhrai has been a leading figure in Chernomyrdin's bloc, the Urals
regional branch of Shakhrai's Party of Russian Unity and Accord (PRES)
announced that it would not cooperate with representatives of the
authorities who have led Russia "into a blind alley," Segodnya reported.
-- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.

. . . WHILE CHERNOMYRDIN EXPRESSES OPTIMISM. Appearing on the NTV
current events program "Itogi" on 21 May, Chernomyrdin said he is
confident his bloc will win a large number of seats in the next Duma. He
said, "the people will understand who is who and whom to follow," since
opposition parties only criticize without offering constructive
programs. Chernomyrdin confirmed that his movement will continue its
activities during the 1996 presidential campaign but denied he would run
for president. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.

MORE MIXED SIGNALS FROM RYBKIN ON CENTER-LEFT BLOC. Duma Speaker Ivan
Rybkin said he has not yet finalized his election plans, Interfax
reported on 19 May. Rybkin has been offered the leadership of the new
political movement Concord and met with Russian United Industrial Party
(ROPP) leader Vladimir Shcherbakov to discuss a possible alliance. Also
on 19 May, Duma deputies from the "Russia" group asked Rybkin to lead a
center-left bloc. Russia faction member Igor Shichanin told Interfax
only a few deputies from his group had joined Chernomyrdin's movement,
while the majority prefer a bloc headed by Rybkin, whom he called "an
outstanding politician" with "a spotless reputation." Rybkin insists
that he is still a member of the Agrarian Party, which has refused to
join a broad electoral alliance. For his part, Agrarian Party leader
Mikhail Lapshin described the chances that Rybkin would lead a center-
left bloc as "doubtful," NTV reported on 21 May. -- Laura Belin, OMRI,
Inc.

RUMORS OF LUZHKOV'S DISMISSAL DENIED. Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov said
false rumors of his imminent dismissal were planted by people who want
to provoke a quarrel between him and the president, Ekho Moskvy reported
on 20 May. Citing a high-ranking Kremlin official, Ekho Moskvy reported
that a decree to fire Luzhkov had been prepared but not yet signed by
Yeltsin. The weekly Argumenty i fakty reported that Yeltsin was planning
to replace Luzhkov with First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets, but
a spokesman for Soskovets told Interfax the article was a "blatant lie"
and "absolutely groundless." -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.

GAIDAR: YAVLINSKY'S POSITION "BETRAYAL." At a meeting of his party's
Moscow council, Russia's Democratic Choice leader Yegor Gaidar called
Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky's refusal to form a united democratic
electoral alliance a "betrayal" and a "stab in the back," NTV and
Russian Public Television reported on 20 May. Gaidar said his party
would still work to create a democratic and anti-communist front for the
upcoming parliamentary campaign. He said Russia's "capitalist
revolution," begun in 1991, had succeeded in making a capitalist economy
"a reality" in Russia. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.

CABINET DISCUSSES 1996 BUDGET. In an interview with Radio Mayak on 20
May First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais discussed the 1996 draft
budget, which the government hopes will be adopted by the end of the
year. The draft budget concept will be submitted to the Duma on 15 June.
The draft envisages an annual inflation rate of 20% to 25% and an
exchange rate of 6,000 rubles to $1. It sets revenues at 273 trillion
rubles and spending at 349 trillion rubles. As in 1995, the deficit--4%
of GDP--is to be covered by noninflationary sources, Segodnya reported
on 19 May. Chubais said tax policy is to be changed considerably with
the aim of reducing the burden on producers by scrapping the special tax
on enterprises, making tax collection more efficient, and eliminating
tax breaks. The government expects to make considerable gains in revenue
by reinstating the state monopoly on alcohol products. Chubais said
defense spending would remain at the 1995 level. At the cabinet's budget
session on 18 May, First Deputy Defense Minister Andrei Kokoshin
demanded an increase in military spending. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc.

YELTSIN VETOES LAW ON CHECHEN TALKS. On 19 May, Russian President Boris
Yeltsin vetoed a law, passed by both houses of the Russian parliament
calling for unconditional talks with the Dudaev leadership, on the
grounds that it violates the Russian Constitution and that such talks
could further destabilize the situation rather than lead to a settlement
of the conflict, Reuters and Interfax reported, quoting the presidential
press service. On 21 May, Interfax quoted State Duma Defense Committee
Chairman Sergei Yushenkov as expressing regret at the veto; both
Yushenkov and Duma Communist faction leader Anatoly Lukyanov questioned
Yeltsin's argument that the law is unconstitutional. -- Liz Fuller,
OMRI, Inc.

NEW RUSSIAN OFFENSIVE IN CHECHNYA. Russian troops launched a new full-
scale offensive against Chechen positions to the southwest and east of
Grozny on 19 May, but met fierce resistance, Western agencies reported.
A Chechen military spokesman told journalists on 21 May that some 29
Chechens had been killed and 50 wounded in three days of fighting. He
also told AFP that the Russian troops had used chemical defoliants; a
Russian spokesman denied the allegation. Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov
denied Russian claims that federal troops had taken the village of Chiri
Yurt in southern Chechnya on 20 May, according to Russian news agencies.
Interfax on 19 May quoted Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev as rejecting
Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's proposal of round-table
talks; Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev denied reports he would
meet with Maskhadov on 22 May, adding that he would only hold talks with
Chechen military representatives after they complied with demands for a
ceasefire and surrendered their arms. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc.

CHANGES IN LAND TENURE. State Committee on Land Chairman Nikolai Komov
told Interfax on 20 May that despite "weak legislative guarantees,"
there have been "significant structural changes" in land tenure since
1991. He said that since then, the amount of land held by state farms
has shrunk from 124 million hectares to 34 million, while the
cooperative sector's holdings have increased from 85 million to 137
million hectares and the private sector's from 4 million to 23 million
hectares. He added that the number of "land users" (zemlepolzovateli)
has increased from 300,000 to 45 million. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc.

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

RUSSIAN EXPERT ON ISLAMIC REVOLUTION IN CENTRAL ASIA. The Islamic
Conference Organization, the World Islamic League, and World Islamic
Congress are engaged in efforts to strengthen Islam as a force in
Central Asia, according to allegations by an unnamed source in the
Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Interfax reported on 19 May. The
source claimed Muslim extremists have been entering the region through
porous borders and have penetrated various parts of Uzbekistan,
including the Ferghana valley, Samarkand, and Bukhara. The source said
diplomatic and intelligence services of unspecified Muslim countries are
involved in the dissemination of religious propaganda and recruiting
activities and funds are also being funneled "to virtually every mosque"
by Saudi sheiks and the Iranian Corps of Revolutionary Guards. The
source also noted that Uzbeks in the Kunduz province of Afghanistan are
receiving military and ideological training and illegal groups of Uzbek
theological students supported by extremist organizations exist in Saudi
Arabia and Egypt. There are 20,000 mosques in Uzbekistan at present,
according to the source, and the Islamic Renaissance Party of Uzbekistan
and Adolat, both banned by the authorities three years ago, are once
again active, mainly in the Ferghana valley. If current trends continue,
an Islamic revolution is conceivable in five to 10 years, the source
predicted. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc.

ISLAMIC STUDIES CENTER TO OPEN IN TASHKENT. Uzbek President Islam
Karimov signed a decree establishing an international Islamic studies
center in Tashkent, Interfax reported on 20 May. The center is to be
founded at the behest of the state-controlled Muslim spiritual board of
Maverannahr and is slated to be funded equally by the state and the
spiritual board, according the presidential decree. The center will
enjoy the status of a research institute within the framework of the
Uzbek Academy of Sciences. It will "study the teachings and philosophy
of Islam and explore the religious, historic, and cultural heritage of
the people of Uzbekistan." -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc.

TAJIK CEASEFIRE EXTENDED BY THREE MONTHS. Tajik President Imomali
Rakhmonov and opposition leader Sayid Abdullo Nuri concluded their talks
and agreed on 19 May to extend the shaky ceasefire, due to end on 26
May, by an additional three months, Reuters reported. The fourth round
of the UN-sponsored peace talks to be held in Almaty, Kazakhstan, has
been rescheduled from 22 May to 24 May. Kazakh spokesman Farkhad
Abdukhalikov said the date was changed because the opposition delegation
had not yet arrived in the Kazakh capital, according to Reuters. --
Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc.

NO BREAKTHROUGH IN KARABAKH TALKS. The OSCE-mediated talks on a
settlement to the Karabakh conflict, which resumed in Moscow on 15 May
after a three-month hiatus, reportedly achieved little of substance,
according to AFP and Interfax. Interfax quoted Finnish diplomat Rene
Nyberg on 19 May as stating that the four days of talks had taken place
in a "businesslike and open atmosphere," and resulted in unspecified
progress towards coordinating a draft agreement. However, the head of
the Armenian delegation, deputy foreign minister Vardan Oskanyan, told
AFP that the talks ended in "semi-failure" although for the first time
the participants discussed the future political status of the disputed
enclave. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc.

CIS

RUSSIA ON UNIFICATION WITH BELARUS. President Yeltsin sent an agreement
on friendship and cooperation with Belarus to the Russian State Duma for
ratification on 18 May, Belarusian radio reported the following day. On
19 May, the Duma voted 249 to zero to prepare for a national Russian
referendum on uniting Russia with Belarus. That follows a referendum in
Belarus on 14 May which saw a large majority voting in favor of closer
economic integration with Russia. Duma deputy Sergei Baburin proposed
that the referendum take place on 12 December, the same day as the
parliamentary elections. Pravda described the referendum as the first
step towards rebuilding the Soviet Union. On 18 May, Belarusian
television reported that Russian and Belarusian customs officials have
begun working together to bring the country a step closer to a customs
union. Meanwhile, the Polish daily Gazeta wyborcza confirmed that
Russian customs officers are jointly guarding the Belarusian border. --
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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