In general, mankind, since the improvement of cookery, eats twice as much as nature requires. - Ben Franklin
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 103, Part I, 29 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
RUSSIAN  REACTION TO BOSNIAN CRISIS . . . In the wake of the 25 and 26
May NATO air strikes on Bosnian Serbs and the subsequent hostage-taking
by Bosnian Serbs of UN peacekeepers, Russian Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin called for a peaceful resolution to the crisis, NTV
reported on 27 May. He reiterated Moscow's hope and expectation that the
conflict could be resolved "at the negotiating table." Moscow, however,
remains adamant that NATO force is an inappropriate tool for regional
problem-solving in the Balkans. Chernomyrdin also said, "the foreign and
defense ministers...[left Moscow] to talk again to the leaders and to
convince them to stop the military actions between them today, so there
will not be such powerful [air] strikes." On 29 May, however, Nasa Borba
reported that no Russian ministers had arrived in Belgrade. The day
before, Interfax reported that Defense Minister Pavel Grachev had not
left Moscow and that Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev "was working in his
Moscow office on Sunday." -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc.

. . . AND TO HOSTAGE SITUATION. Foreign Minister Kozyrev and President
Boris Yeltsin are "taking measures to free UN servicemen taken hostage
in Bosnia," Interfax reported on 27 May without providing details.
Russian troops were among those initially detained by Bosnian Serb
forces. On 28 May, however, Russian TV's "Novosti" reported that the
Bosnian Serb command had released all Russian UN peacekeepers that day,
but that Bosnian Serb forces are continuing to restrict the "movement of
Russian peacekeepers in some parts [of Bosnia] under Bosnian Serb
control." -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc.

CHECHEN FIGHTING CONTINUES AFTER PEACE TALKS FAIL. Russia began bombing
Chechen positions less than 24 hours after ending fruitless peace talks
on 25 May. Chechen soldiers reported that the village of Serzhen Yurt,
which has held out against Russian attacks for two months, was
surrounded 28 May, trapping an unknown number of Chechen fighters,
according to AFP. The same day, Russian forces heavily bombed Vedeno, 16
km away. The Russian Defense Ministry described heavy fighting in
Agishty, 5 km south of Shali, according to Interfax. ITAR-TASS reported
that Russian forces have blocked off many of the roads leading to the
highland areas. The agency also carried a statement from Ruslan Gelaev,
Chechen commander of the southeastern front, that his troops would kill
five Russian PoWs if the bombing did not stop. But Aslan Maskhadov,
chief of staff of Chechnya's armed forces, told Ekho Moskvy that "we
have not sunk to such bestial methods." On 27 May, President Yeltsin's
chief of staff, Sergei Filatov, told a session of the Russian
President's Public Chamber that the Russian president and government are
open for talks with Dudaev supporters at any level, although no future
talks have been scheduled. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

FEDERAL TROOPS MISSING IN ACTION IN CHECHNYA. A total of 243 Russian
troops have been reported as missing in action in Chechnya, an official
of the General Staff told the State Duma on 26 May. He said 90 are being
held prisoner by the militants, while another 161 Russian servicemen
have been released, some for ransom, Interfax reported. The official
said negotiations are underway on the release of the Russian prisoners,
and indicated that the militants want freedom for their members held in
Russian jails. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.

BODY NOT CUNY'S. A Russian doctor has confirmed that a body found in
Chechnya was erroneously identified as that of Fred Cuny, a former Soros
consultant who disappeared in the region in mid-April, ITAR-TASS
reported on 28 May. A Moscow traumatologist connected with the Soros
foundation, Vladimir Polotnyanko, examined the body and concluded it is
not Cuny's because it has no steel rod in the thighbone. A
representative for the Chechen separatists, Usman Imayev, said the
search for Cuny would continue. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.

RYBKIN FACES DIFFICULTY BUILDING LEFT-CENTER BLOC. Presidential aide
Georgy Satarov said he is confident that Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin will
form an electoral bloc, Russian Public Television reported on 27 May. He
said Rybkin has been slow in forming the new bloc because he does not
have access to the same organizational resources as Prime Minister
Chernomyrdin. Obshchaya gazeta reported that although the chairmen of
Russia's regional legislatures are providing support for the bloc,
Rybkin has had to work in secrecy because the president's unveiling of
the bloc has scared away many potential allies. Lyudmila Vartazarova,
chairwoman of the Socialist Party of the Working People, confirmed that
analysis by saying, "No opposition bloc can be set up by instructions
from the top leader," Interfax reported on 26 May. Her party plans to
maintain contact with Rybkin's bloc but is not ready to join it. --
Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

STABLE RUSSIA NOT TO JOIN CHERNOMYRDIN BLOC. Stability leaders Alexei
Alexandrov, Alexei Leushkin, and Bembya Khulkhachiev said the Stable
Russia movement will campaign independently in the parliamentary
elections and that the Stability deputy group is still undecided about
whether to join Chernomyrdin's bloc, Interfax reported 26 May. Yeltsin
first announced the formation of the Chernomyrdin and Rybkin blocs while
meeting with Stability deputies. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

GOVERNMENT SUPPORT FOR NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA? The Russian government
intends to provide financial support for Nezavisimaya gazeta, which
recently had to close down because it could not meet its expenses,
Russian media reported. Chernomyrdin essentially told Russian Public
Television on 27 May that he dislikes the paper but wants it to have the
right to express its point of view. Editor Vitaly Tretyakov told Russian
TV on 25 May that he is ready to let the paper die with honor. -- Robert
Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

SPIRITUAL HERITAGE HOLDS FOUNDING CONGRESS. The organization Spiritual
Heritage (Duk-hovnoe nasledie) held its founding congress in
Krasnogorsk, Radio Mayak reported on 27 May. Alexei Pod-berezkin,
chairman of the new organization, said its purpose is to bring together
all those who support a strong state. The group's ruling body includes
Gennady Zyuganov, leader of the Communist Party of Russia, and Valery
Vorotnikov, former deputy chairman of the Soviet KGB and now the
director of a department in the MOST group. The organization will help
the Communist Party during the elections. More than 300 delegates from
50 regions of Russia attended the congress. The group's name refers to
the state ideology that members claim died with the USSR, Russian Public
Television reported. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

EARTHQUAKE HITS SAKHALIN. An earthquake measuring 7.5 on the Richter
scale devastated northern Sakhalin on 27 May, Russian and Western
agencies reported. The quake flattened the oil town of Neftegorsk,
trapping up to 3,000 people; 300 deaths were officially confirmed by the
morning of 29 May. Japan offered to send help to the region, but First
Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets, in charge of the relief operation,
was quoted by Reuters as saying Russia did not need foreign aid. He
added that he had asked the Finance Ministry for 30 billion rubles to
cover the initial costs of the relief effort. Viktor Gurevich, the
deputy governor of Sakhalin Oblast, rejected claims that the quake could
cause an ecological catastrophe. A local oil official had earlier
reported more than 15 ruptures along a 90 km stretch of oil pipeline on
the island and the destruction of all oil wells in the affected region.
-- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc.

YELTSIN VETOES LAW ON UNIONS. President Yeltsin has rejected the Law on
Trade Unions, Their Rights, and Guarantees, passed by the Duma on 14
April, according to Segodnya on 27 May. In a letter to Duma Speaker
Rybkin, Yeltsin said the law contravened the constitution, Civil Code,
and international accords signed by Russia. Alexei Surikov, first deputy
head of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia (FNPR),
said he did not understand the president's decision, contending that
"such generalities" can be applied to any law. The head of the Union of
Workers of the Agroindustrial Complex called the veto a serious mistake
and warned that it would set the unions against the president in the
election campaign. In early May, Russia's free trade unions picketed the
Federation Council to protest the draft law, arguing that it would give
the FNPR a monopoly. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc.

DUMA RAISES MINIMUM PENSION. On 26 May, the parliament's lower house
voted to increase the minimum pension to 52,486 rubles ($10.46) a month
as of 1 June, Segodnya reported on 27 May. The government opposes the
move, arguing that pensions should not be increased more than once every
three months. Pensions were raised from 34,440 rubles ($6.86) a month to
43,739 rubles ($8.72) on 1 May. A government spokesman also said the
Pension Fund did not have the resources to cover such a hike, that the
projected increase exceeded the rate of inflation, and that it would
cause delays in the payment of pensions. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc.

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

UN THREATENS TO WITHDRAW MISSION FROM TAJIKISTAN. UN envoy, Ramiro Piriz
Ballon, warned that the UN might not extend the mandate of its mission
in Tajikistan, saying there is "no agreement between the two sides on
any constructive step." The peace talks have gone on for a week now with
the opposition proposing to share power with the Tajik government,
Interfax reported. The Tajik government representatives at the talks in
Almaty flatly refused to accept such a deal. Tajik First Deputy Prime
Minister Makhmadsaid Ubaidullaiyev noted that 88% of the voters in last
November's referendum voted for the present constitution. A UN proposal
to set up a consultative committee on drafting constitutional changes
also met with little success, according to Reuters. The UN envoy said,
"The Security Council is very clear: if there is no progress, we will
end our presence in Tajikistan," AFP reported. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI,
Inc.

CIS

LITTLE PROGRESS AT CIS TALKS IN MINSK. The CIS made little progress
toward integration at its 26 May summit in Minsk, international agencies
reported. There was considerable disagreement among member states on an
interstate currency committee for settling mutual accounts, a human
rights convention, and collective security. However, Yeltsin cited the
customs union with Belarus as one concrete result of the summit. Prime
Minister Chernomyrdin called the customs treaty "a breakthrough" and
indicated that Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev, who did not attend
the summit because of health reasons, had confirmed that Kaz-akhstan
would also join the union. In addition, Russia, Belarus, Kaz-akhstan,
Kyrgyzstan, Armenia, Georgia, and Tajikistan tentatively agreed to a
collective security arrangement which could place Russian troops on
their outer borders. The summit also extended the peacekeeping mandates
in Tajikistan and Abkhazia, and a "comprehensive plan" was adopted for
settling the conflict in Tajikistan. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma
continued to express skepticism about the organization's future. He said
the CIS has yet to register economic results. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI,
Inc.

KARIMOV'S CRITIQUE OF CIS SUMMIT. Commenting on the results of the CIS
summit in Minsk, Uzbek President Islam Karimov said "the future of the
CIS countries depends on Russia," Interfax reported on 28 May. Speaking
on Uzbek TV, he noted that although the CIS was conceived as an
equitable alliance of independent states, only those initiatives
advanced by Russia are carried out. Karimov stressed the need for Russia
to "understand" that all CIS members have equal rights and noted that
the CIS lacked a mechanism for implementing adopted documents, which he
said number more than 500. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc.

MISSILE CHIEF UPDATES WEAPONS IN NEAR ABROAD. Col. Gen. Viktor Yasin,
head of Russia's Strategic Missile Troops, said on 26 May that Russia
still has operational control of 93 strategic missiles in Ukraine and 18
in Belarus. Interfax quoted him as saying his command has good relations
with the Ukrainian General Staff. Yasin said the warheads on the
missiles in Ukraine would be destroyed by June 1996, while those in
Belarus would be returned to Russia this year. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI,
Inc.

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez

The OMRI Daily Digest offers the latest news from the former Soviet
Union and East-Central and Southeastern Europe. It is published Monday
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