Fear of life in one form or another is the great thing to exorcise. - William James
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 186, Part I, 25 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

SHAKHRAI CONDEMNS PARTY-LIST ELECTORAL SYSTEM. Appearing at the second
congress of his Party of Russian Unity and Concord (PRES), Deputy Prime
Minister Sergei Shakhrai said the party's first goal will be to dissolve
the next Duma and annul what he called the "Yabloko-Communist" electoral
law under which its members are to be chosen, Russian Public TV reported
on 22 September. Under the law on parliamentary elections, the next Duma
will be composed of 225 deputies elected from single-member
constituencies and 225 chosen from party lists of groups that win at
least 5% of the vote nationwide. Segodnya reported the next day that
Shakhrai believes only a few "agrarian-communist or radical nationalist"
parties will clear the 5% barrier, and those parties would then be
allocated all 225 party-list seats. Shakhrai told Ekho Moskvy that most
PRES candidates will compete in single-member constituencies. In 1993,
PRES barely received the 5% of votes necessary to win Duma
representation from party lists. The PRES congress formally approved the
decision to leave Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's bloc Our Home Is
Russia. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.

ROSSEL'S "TRANSFORMATION" BLOC GAINS STRENGTH. The electoral bloc
Transformation of the Fatherland (Preobrazhenie otechestva) held its
founding congress in Yekaterinburg, Russian media reported on 23
September. According to NTV, the movement's founder, Sverdlovsk Oblast
Governor Eduard Rossel, will top the Transformation party list. The bloc
will lobby for the interests of regions, including changes in tax policy
and a stronger system of local self-government, Ekho Moskvy reported.
Transformation has branches in 52 of Russia's 89 federation subjects and
plans to nominate candidates in 81 regions. Federation Council Speaker
Vladimir Shumeiko's decision to appear at the congress reflects the
movement's growing importance. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.

YELTSIN RETURNS LAWS TO DUMA. President Boris Yeltsin has sent back 10
draft laws to the Duma without reading them, ITAR-TASS reported on 22
September. They include the bill on combating organized crime and the
new criminal code, passed by the Duma in July. In a letter to Duma
Speaker Ivan Rybkin, Yeltsin said that the original drafts are with the
Federation Council, which has not yet considered them, and that he is
not authorized to sign copies. Under the constitution, the Federation
Council is supposed to forward bills passed by the Duma to the president
within 14 days even if it does not reject or approve them. -- Penny
Morvant, OMRI, Inc.

"OCTOBER REVOLUTION" AT RUSSIAN PUBLIC TELEVISION . . . In what the 23
September Kommersant-Daily described as an "October Revolution at
Channel 1," Russia's largest network Russian Public TV (ORT)
substantially revised its programming schedule, to take effect on 1
October. The most controversial change was the decision to drop Sergei
Dorenko's news magazine "Versii" (Versions), ostensibly for financial
reasons. However, Irena Lesnitskaya, director of the television company
that produces "Versii," called the decision "pure politics" since
producers offered the show to ORT practically for free, Ekho Moskvy
reported on 22 September. According to Dorenko, ORT executives disliked
his political independence. In recent months, Dorenko aired fragments of
an interview with Chechen fighter Shamil Basaev, speculated on the
health of Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, and investigated acting
Procurator-General Aleksei Ilyushenko. The independent network NTV
agreed to broadcast "Versii," beginning on 2 October. Aleksandr
Solzhenitsyn's weekly talk show was also dropped from the new ORT
schedule, AFP reported on 24 September. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.

. . . AS THE NETWORK IS REPRIMANDED FOR COVERAGE OF DUMA BRAWL. The President's
Chamber on Information Disputes reprimanded Russian Public TV (ORT) for
"incomplete and inaccurate" reporting of the 9 September brawl in the
State Duma, ITAR-TASS reported on 22 September. The brawl started when
right-wing National-Republican Party leader Nikolai Lysenko attacked
Gleb Yakunin, a pro-reform deputy. Duma deputy Vladimir Lysenko,
chairman of the centrist Republican Party, brought the complaint because
Channel 1 news reported only that "deputy Lysenko" started the
fistfight. He charged that the network's failure to specify which
Lysenko was involved had damaged his own reputation. The chamber ordered
ORT to inform viewers explicitly that Nikolai Lysenko instigated the
brawl; and recommended that television companies show photographs of
political figures with common surnames to avoid confusion. -- Laura
Belin, OMRI, Inc.

NEW PRESIDENT SELECTED IN MORDOVIYA. The Constitutional Assembly in
Mordoviya chose State Assembly Chairman Nikolai Merkushkin to be the
republic's president until elections for the post are held, NTV reported
on 22 September. Merkushkin was head of the Mordoviya Property Fund
until his selection as chair of Mordoviya's legislature in February
1995. He was the only candidate considered for the post of President,
which was created anew in the draft constitution adopted on 20
September. Vasilii Guslyanikov, a supporter of Democratic Russia, had
been elected president in December 1991, but the conservative
legislature abolished his position in April 1993. -- Laura Belin, OMRI,
Inc.

CHECHEN ROUNDUP. Russian-Chechen talks on the implementation of a July
disarmament agreement resumed in Grozny on 22 September, Russian media
reported. Also on 22 September, President Yeltsin issued an appeal to
the people of Chechnya reaffirming Russia's commitment to finding a
peaceful resolution to the crisis. Representatives of Chechen President
Dzhokhar Dudaev boycotted a round table discussion on 23 September, at
which various Chechen political groupings unveiled their election
programs. The head of the pro-Moscow Chechen provisional government,
Salambek Khadzhiev, acknowledged that Dudaev enjoys substantial support
among the Chechen population; participants then invited Dudaev
representatives to attend the next round table meeting on 30 September,
Interfax reported on 24 September. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc.

BUDENNOVSK POLICE WANT NEW INQUIRY INTO HOSTAGE CRISIS. Police in
Budennovsk have sent an open letter to Interior Minister Anatolii
Kulikov complaining that they have been made the scapegoats for the June
 hostage crisis and calling for a new investigation into the events
surrounding the tragedy. According to ITAR-TASS on 23 September, the
letter notes that 18 local police officers were killed in the fighting
with Shamil Basaev's forces and that the performance of the local police
was praised by senior ministry officials at the time. The police
consider it unjust that the Budennovsk police chief was fired, while
"the irresponsible officials who let the gang [out of Chechnya] continue
to serve in six interior departments in Dagestan and two departments in
Stavropol Krai." -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc.

KOZYREV, YELTSIN DISCUSS FOREIGN POLICY. Before departing for the 50th
session of the UN General Assembly, Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev
discussed Russia's foreign policy strategy with President Yeltsin,
Russian agencies reported on 24 September. Kozyrev was directed to
"raise the level of professionalism" at the Foreign Ministry and more
effectively implement Presidential foreign policy directives. Kozyrev,
recently under heavy criticism, complained in a 22 September speech that
his ministry's effectiveness has been undermined by its fiscal problems,
with "monstrous" salaries causing many diplomats to leave for the
private sector. He quipped that at the current rate, "soon there will be
no one left to criticize" at the ministry. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc.

YELTSIN MEETS CHINESE FOREIGN MINISTER. Chinese Foreign Minister Qian
Qichen met with President Yeltsin in Sochi on 22 September, Russian and
Western agencies reported. Quichen said he and Yeltsin "expressed
similar opinions" on every issue they discussed. At a joint news
conference, Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev said during Yeltsin's
upcoming visit to China a major political accord would be signed but
denied that China and Russia planned to form a new political-military
bloc. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc.

RUSSIAN-U.S. EXERCISE PREPARATIONS SUSPENDED. Russia has suspended "for
an indefinite period" preparations for a joint peacekeeping exercise
with the U.S. scheduled to be held in Kansas next month, Interfax
reported on 22 September. Russia had previously balked at the exercise
because of the renewed NATO bombing of the Bosnian Serbs. -- Doug
Clarke, OMRI, Inc.

GOVERNMENT BANS SHUT DOWN OF POWER TO MILITARY. Stung by a recent rash of
embarrassing and dangerous incidents where local power authorities cut off
power to several military facilities, Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin on 23 September signed a resolution banning such arbitrary
steps, ITAR-TASS reported. The government called such actions
"irresponsible and detrimental to national security." The military is
heavily in debt to the power supplies and the latest order rescinded a
previous regulation that allowed the energy companies to cut off power
to military bases and defense plants after their accounts were 30 days
in arrears. On 22 September, the agency also revealed that the Northern
Fleet had sent armed soldiers to force the engineer on duty at a Kola
power plant to restore power to a Russian submarine base, thus averting
a potential nuclear disaster. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.

TENSION BUILDING IN KUZBASS. A wildcat strike broke out at the Usinsk
pit in Mezhdurechensk in the Kuzbass on 21 September, Interfax reported.
Aleksandr Sergeev, chairman of the Independent Miners' Union, said the
miners are demanding their wages which have not been paid since June,
and that other pits in the town and in Prokopevsk are ready to join the
protest. Sergeev noted that in 1989, the Russian miners' strike began in
Mezhdurechensk. The Mezhdurechensk city strike committee has declared an
official strike from 12 October to protest wage arrears. Meanwhile, coal
workers in Amur and Krasnoyarsk oblasts announced their intention to
stop coal deliveries to Primorsk Krai in a gesture of solidarity with
miners in that region, who are threatening to strike.  -- Penny Morvant,
OMRI, Inc.

GOVERNMENT RULES OUT SHORT-TERM FOREIGN LOANS. When seeking to attract
foreign funds under government guarantees, the Russian government will
rule out short-term foreign loans and opt for medium-term loans,
Segodnya reported on 23 September. According to Mikhail Kasyanov, head
of the Finance Ministry's foreign credit and foreign debt department,
Russia will look for loans with a minimum term of eight years order to
avoid overburdening Russia's debt repayment schedule. Kasyanov said that
the government set a limit of $9.6 billion in foreign loans for 1996. --
Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.

FRADKOV SUGGESTS HIGHER FOOD IMPORT TARIFFS. Russia needs to raise
import tariffs on agricultural products in order to protect domestic
 producers, First Deputy Minister for Foreign Economic Relations Mikhail
 Fradkov said in a government meeting on 22 September, Interfax
 reported. Fradkov said that despite the 1 July hike in food import
 duties, Russia's average tariff, at 16%, is lower than the 21% average
tariff of European Union countries. Earlier this year, Foreign Economic
Relations Minister Oleg Davydov criticized the government's decision to
raise food import duties, arguing that such a move would push up food
prices and complicate negotiations on Russia joining the World Trade
Organization. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.

ZAVERYUKHA OPPOSES SALE OF FARMLAND. Russia should refrain from selling
land plots in rural regions, Aleksandr Zaveryukha, the deputy prime
minister responsible for agriculture, said on 22 September, Interfax
reported. Speaking in Gorodishche while on a tour of the Volgograd
Oblast, the minister said long-term land leasing is the most acceptable
form of rural land ownership. Zaveryukha, who appears to disagree with
Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, who on 14 September called for a
referendum on the Land Code to speed private land ownership. -- Thomas
Sigel, OMRI, Inc.

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

AKAEV CALLS FOR PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS IN DECEMBER. In a speech to
parliament on 21 September, Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev called for
presidential elections to be held in December of this year, according to
Western sources and Interfax. Akaev's move comes after the 35-member
legislative assembly voted against holding a referendum that would have
extended his term in office until the year 2001. Those opposed to the
move point out that it leaves only two and a half months to gather the
necessary 50,000 signatures to register and run a campaign. Twenty-three
members of the legislative assembly voted in favor of holding the
election. Akaev was elected to a five-year term in an uncontested vote
in October 1991. However, in a 23 September interview on Radio Mayak,
Akaev justified holding an election this year by referring to the fact
that he was originally elected by the Supreme Soviet in 1990. -- Bruce
Pannier, OMRI, Inc.

CIS

KYRGYZSTAN, UZBEKISTAN, AND TAJIKISTAN READY TO JOIN CUSTOMS UNION. At a
meeting of the presidium of the CIS Interstate Economic Committee,
Kyrgyz, Uzbek, and Tajik officials expressed their desire to join the
customs union that comprises Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan, Interfax
reported on 22 September. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Aleksei
Bolshakov, chairman of the CIS presidium, told Interfax that other CIS
members may join the customs union soon. Kazakhstani President Nursultan
Nazarbaev recently told visiting Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma that
the customs union will not deter Kazakhstan from expanding trade with
other CIS countries that have not joined it (see OMRI Daily Digest, 22
September 1995). -- Bhavna Dave, 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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