Man will occasionally stumble over the truth, but most times he will pick himself up and carry on. - Winston Churchill
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 184, Part I, 21 September 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 Central, Eastern, 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

LOBOV, KHADZHIEV ESCAPE BOMB ATTACK. The Russian presidential
representative in Chechnya, Oleg Lobov, escaped unhurt when a 200 kg
bomb exploded under a bridge near Grozny over which he was driving on
the morning of 20 September, Russian media reported. Lobov was
accompanied by Prime Minister Salambek Khadzhiev and National Accord
Committee Chairman Umar Avturkhanov. President Boris Yeltsin condemned
the incident, which he said was intended to thwart efforts to implement
the military agreement and to reach a political settlement in Chechnya.
Chechen military commander Aslan Maskhadov denied that his forces were
responsible for the explosion, according to Ekho Moskvy. Maskhadov
further stated that those heavy weapons that the Chechens had intended
to surrender had been moved back to offensive positions in response to
the ultimatum to disarm issued by the Russian federal troop command on
19 September, NTV reported. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc.

GUNMEN HIJACK BUS IN DAGESTAN. In the first major hostage situation in
Russia since Budennovsk, on 20 September two gunmen hijacked a bus in
Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan, Russian and Western agencies
reported. The gunmen seized the bus and its 19 passengers after escaping
from police during a routine search. Surrounded by police, the hijackers
have demanded $1.5 million and a getaway helicopter, according to ITAR-
TASS. The incident is the latest in a long-running string of such
incidents in the North Caucasus region of Russia, labeled the "Bermuda
Triangle" by some journalists because of frequent hijackings. -- Scott
Parrish, OMRI, Inc.

PURGE AT FEDERAL SECURITY SERVICE. Federal Security Service Director
Colonel General Mikhail Barsukov fired three senior officials on 17
September: Anti-Terrorist Department head Col. Gen. Anatolii Semenov,
former FSB Deputy Director Lt. Gen. Igor Mezhakov, and the FSB head in
Stavropol Krai, Moskovskii komsomolets reported on 19 September. The
dismissals are assumed to be a response to the failure of the security
services during the Budennovsk hostage taking in June. Mezhakov is
reportedly a relative of First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets--
their wives are sisters. -- Peter Rutland, OMRI, Inc.

GENERAL ROKHLIN RUNNING FOR DUMA TO HELP HIS TROOPS. Lt. Gen. Lev
Rokhlin said he decided to run as number three on Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin's Our Home is Russia list because working within the
political bloc has given him improved access to the government,
including the prime minister, Kommersant-Daily reported on 20 September.
Rokhlin is famous for leading Russian troops in Chechnya and then
rejecting decorations and criticizing those who made profits from
trading with Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev. He claimed that his
meeting with high-level leaders will help resolve the army's financial
problems and argued that the army had made a mistake by not contesting
earlier elections. The newspaper commented that Rokhlin's decision to
work with Chernomyrdin has hurt his standing among junior and mid-level
officers who blame the prime minister for the military's current
financial problems. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

MORDOVIYA ADOPTS DRAFT CONSTITUTION. The State Assembly of Mordoviya
adopted a new draft of the republic's constitution on 20 September. The
new constitution creates the post of president of the republic and
guarantees free education and health care to its workers, Radio Mayak
reported. The parliament retains the right to remove the president and
government with a two-thirds vote. The constitution will be approved at
a meeting of a 1,350 member constitutional assembly on 21 September and
the same body will elect the new president the next day. -- Robert
Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

KEMEROVO EXECUTIVE PROPOSES REVAMPING RUSSIAN FEDERATION. The Kemerovo
Oblast Governor Mikhail Kislyuk proposed that all of Russia's republics
and regions be turned into guberniya to reduce conflict between the
center and the periphery. He suggested that the key figure in each
region should be a governor appointed by the president, ITAR-TASS
reported 21 September. The governor would appoint the head of
administration and have the power to initiate legislation, sign or veto
local laws, and propose candidates for the post of local legislature
speaker. Kislyuk said he wants to try this proposal in Kemerovo as an
experiment. His relationship with Aman Tuleev, the chairman of the
oblast's Legislative Assembly, has been extremely adversarial. -- Robert
Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

FINAL CAMPAIGN COVERAGE RULES ISSUED. The Central Electoral Commission
released the final version of guidelines for state-owned media coverage
of the parliamentary campaign, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 September.
Between 15 November and 15 December, all officially registered
candidates, parties, and blocs will receive 30 minutes of free air time
on state-owned television and radio between 7:00 and 10:00 a.m., as well
as 30 minutes between 6:00 and 11:00 p.m. Television and radio companies
will not be allowed to edit or interrupt campaign programs prepared by
the parties. In addition, beginning on 5 November all parties will be
guaranteed space for campaign materials in state-run national and
regional newspapers. The final version of the commission's rules does
not regulate campaign coverage in the privately owned media; earlier
proposals floated in August would have prohibited all political
advertising on private radio and television. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.

MORE ELECTORAL BLOCS ANNOUNCE PLANS. Leaders of My Fatherland, which
recently deserted Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin's left-center bloc, confirmed
that they will compete independently as "constructive opposition" in the
December parliamentary elections, Russian TV reported on 20 September.
Col. Gen. Boris Gromov, economist Stanislav Shatalin, and controversial
singer Iosif Kobzon will top My Fatherland's party list. On the same
day, Anatolii Panfilov, chairman of the ecological movement KEDR
(Cedar), predicted that his bloc would win 7-10% of the vote. KEDR's
party list includes popular game show host Leonid Yakubovich, Novyi mir
editor Sergei Zalygin, astronaut Musa Manarov, and Soldiers' Mothers of
Russia leader Lyubov Lymar. In the 1993 elections, KEDR failed to clear
the 5% barrier necessary to guarantee Duma representation. -- Laura
Belin, OMRI, Inc.

UNION OF MUSLIMS SEEKS ALLIANCE WITH CONGRESS OF RUSSIAN COMMUNITIES.
Mukaddas Bibarsov, leader of the Union of Muslims, told Radio Rossii on
20 September that his union would like to form an electoral alliance
with Yurii Skokov's Congress of Russian Communities (KRO). Lt. Gen.
(ret.) Aleksandr Lebed is leading the campaign for the KRO, which was
founded in 1993 to represent the interests of ethnic Russians living in
the near abroad. This year, the KRO helped set up the Union of Peoples
of Russia, which appeals to citizens of all ethnicities who support a
strong Russian state. Bibarsov's search for allies reflects his group's
organizational troubles; though it claims to represent the interests of
20 million Muslims in Russia, the Union of Muslims has failed to recruit
some of the country's most prominent Muslim political figures (see OMRI
Daily Digest, 7 September 1995). -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.

RUSSIA NOT PREPARED TO JOIN NATO FORCE IN BOSNIA. Russian Ambassador to
Belgium Vitalii Churkin told journalists that Russia is not prepared to
participate in a proposed NATO peace-maintenance force, Russian and
Western agencies reported on 20 September. NATO has announced that it
will begin a study on setting up such a force, which would replace the
current UN peacekeeping mission in Bosnia within six months of a
settlement. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc.

BOSNIAN SERB REPRESENTATIVE GETS COLD SHOULDER. Backing away from its
earlier confrontational rhetoric on the conflict in the former
Yugoslavia, the Russian government has played down the visit of the
Bosnian Serb "foreign minister," Aleksa Bukha, to Moscow this week,
allowing him to meet only with second-level officials and refusing to
comment on his request for military assistance. Presidential National
Security Adviser Yurii Baturin told ITAR-TASS that Bukha had requested
military assistance during their talks on 20 September. -- Scott
Parrish, OMRI, Inc.

MILITARY CANNOT PAY ITS UTILITY BILLS. The Russian armed forces simply
cannot pay their utility bills, a representative of the Defense Ministry
told ITAR-TASS on 19 September. Maj. Gen. Vladimir Osadchii said that
the military's 1995 budget allocated 1.3 trillion rubles for this
purpose while 5.5 trillion was required. He said that the recent power
cut-off to the Plesetsk missile test range was only a fragment of a
larger picture. There is a list of users that regional power services
are prohibited from cutting off due to non-payment of bills. In July,
military facilities were removed from that list. Osadchii warned that
with the coming cold weather, the number of military units deprived of
power could grow considerably. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.

ECONOMICS MINISTER OPTIMISTIC. Russian Economics Minister Yevgenii Yasin
told a press conference on 20 September that "We do not expect inflation
to accelerate in the autumn [as] there are no factors at all which could
push prices up," Western and Russian agencies reported. He rejected the
view that prices could repeat the pattern of last year, when inflation
leapt from 4.6% in August to 15% in November. However, Yasin revealed
several factors which could spark inflation. He said energy prices will
be allowed to rise at 70% of the rise in industrial prices; and that the
money supply rose 13% in the second quarter of 1995. (In recent years
monetary growth has fed through to consumer prices with a six-month
lag.) Yasin said he expects industrial production to fall 4% this year
compared to a15% fall in 1994. -- Peter Rutland, OMRI, Inc.

ALCOHOL REVENUE ELUDES GOVERNMENT. Government revenue from alcohol taxes
has fallen five fold since 1990, despite rising consumption, Russian
Public TV reported on 20 September. It is estimated that less than 40%
of the alcohol consumed is officially reported. The budget loses an
estimated 300 billion rubles ($67 million) a year from unregistered
imports. (German vodka exports to Russia total $200 million, ITAR-TASS
reported on 20 September.) Also, many firms with special tax privileges
trade in alcohol. The National Sport Fund, which is exempt from taxes,
has bought up 90% of the spirit import licenses. First Deputy Prime
Minister Anatolii Chubais has vowed to eliminate all such tax breaks. --
Peter Rutland, OMRI, Inc.

NEW REVENUE SHARING RULES. The Duma Working Group on the Budget on 19
September announced a new set of rules governing revenue sharing between
Moscow and federation members, Segodnya reported 20 September. The
regions will receive 50% of excise duty on alcohol and 100% of the duty
on other goods; 25% of VAT; 22% of profits tax; and 30% of income taxes.
Those norms will be fixed for three years. In addition, 15% of the
federal budget will be returned to the regions as subsidies. The Finance
Ministry is also proposing a new system of wage controls from January
1996, Business-TASS reported on 20 September. Firms with an average wage
bill that is 20 times the minimum wage and rises at more than 40% of the
minimum wage per month will be fined from 50-100% of the excess. --
Peter Rutland, OMRI, Inc.

COMMERCIAL BANK WOES. Banks are trying to woo back customers who
withdrew their deposits in the wake of last month's bank payments
crisis, Kommersant-Daily reported on 20 September. Inkombank now pays
from 14-18% on German mark deposits, while Rossiiskii Kredit pays 56-80%
on ruble accounts. Meanwhile, a new problem has arisen for the banks.
Izvestiya reported on 20 September. A letter sent to banks by an obscure
Central Bank of Russia official stated that the central bank would no
longer automatically repay inter-bank loans from the banks' accounts.
The Association of Russian Banks complained that this means there is no
legal mechanism for banks to recoup unpaid loans and are appealing the
decision to the procurator-general. -- Peter Rutland, OMRI, Inc.

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

KYRGYZ LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY VOTES NO ON REFERENDUM. On 20 September, the
Kyrgyz Legislative Assembly voted by a margin of 30 to three not to hold
a referendum on extending President Askar Akaev's term in office,
according to Interfax. On 20 August, a petition with more than 1 million
signatures was given to representatives of the Kyrgyz parliament calling
for the referendum, but Akaev said he would allow the parliament to
decide. On 18 September, a group representing four political parties and
seven NGOs began a hunger strike in front of the government building to
protest the proposed extension. The Assembly of People's Representatives
is scheduled to vote on the referendum on 26 September, but legislative
Speaker Mukar Cholponbaev said that the other house does not have the
power to approve the referendum so the issue is settled, Interfax
reported. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc.

TAJIK OPPOSITION RADIO SAYS 200 DEAD IN KURGAN-TYUBE. The recent
fighting in Kurgan-Tyube between rival units of the Tajik army has
claimed over 200 lives, according to a Radio Voice of Free Tajikistan
report cited by the BBC. The broadcast said many among the dead were
civilians and that the toll is rising as the fighting continued with
tanks and armored personnel carriers at least until 19 September.
Fighting began on the morning of 17 September when the 1st brigade
attempted to arrest leaders in the 11th brigade. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI,
Inc.

KAZAKHSTAN LIFTS CUSTOMS CONTROL ON RUSSIAN BORDER. Kazakhstani
President Nursultan Nazarbaev signed a decree to lift customs controls
on the border between Kazakhstan and Russia, ITAR-TASS reported on 20
September. The decree stated that only transit cargoes from third
countries will be checked at the border from now on. Nazarbaev ratified
the agreement on joining a customs union with Russia and Belarus earlier
this week, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 September. -- Bhavna Dave, OMRI,
Inc.

INDIA GRANTS $10 MILLION CREDIT LINE TO TURKMENISTAN. Following talks
between visiting Indian Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao and Turkmen
leader Saparmurad Niyazov, India opened a second credit line worth $10
million, to be used for equipment for developing small industrial
enterprises in Turkmenistan, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 September. India
offered $5.5 million credits in March 1995 to build a pharmaceutical
plant in Turkmenistan. Turkmen Oil and Gas Minister Aman Esenov proposed
that the $3.2 billion pipeline between Turkmenistan and Iran could be
extended to Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India. Turkmen Foreign Minister
Boris Shikhmuradov told PTI that Turkmenistan will sell oil and gas to
India if a tripartite agreement between the three countries is reached.
Rao is on a five-day visit to Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan--his second
tour of the region since 1993. -- Bhavna Dave, OMRI, Inc.

GREEK-GEORGIAN JOINT VENTURE. The state-owned Greek oil refining company
EKO and the Georgian state oil company signed an agreement in Tbilisi on
15 September to create a joint venture to set up a network of gas
stations in Georgia and to market EKO products there, Western agencies
reported on 20 September. The new company--the first Greek-Georgian
joint venture--plans to extend operations to the fields of natural gas
and aviation fuel. At present, the mafia has a virtual monopoly on
gasoline distribution in Georgia. -- Liz Fuller, 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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Copyright (C) 1995 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights
reserved. ISSN 1211-1570


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