Man's yesterday may ne'er be like his morrow; Naught may endure but Mutability. - Percy Shelley
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 221, Part I, 13 November 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.
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

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^TODAY'S TOP STORY^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
REFERENDUM, ELECTIONS IN AZERBAIJAN. Azerbaijan's parliamentary
elections and a referendum on a new constitution took place on 12
November with a 79.8% turnout, international media reported the same
day. Although preliminary results have yet to be released, the election
has received sharp criticism from international monitors and leading
Azerbaijani opposition figures barred from running. Four opposition
parties (Musavat, the Communist Party, the Hope Party, and the Popular
Democratic Party) were barred from participating and there was a greater
number of parliamentary candidates who were denied registration than
those who were permitted to compete. In related news, four journalists
connected to the satirical samizdat publication Chesme who were
convicted of insulting the honor of the president were pardoned on the
eve of elections. -- Lowell Bezanis
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

RUSSIA

YELTSIN REJECTS LAW ON FEDERATION COUNCIL. President Boris Yeltsin
refused to sign the latest version of the law on forming the
parliament's upper house, citing "serious violations of the procedure
for adopting the law," ITAR-TASS reported on 11 November. Yeltsin's veto
came after a meeting with Federation Council Speaker Vladimir Shumeiko
in the hospital. The upper house had vetoed the bill on 25 October, but
the Duma was able to muster the 300 votes necessary to override the veto
and forward it to the president on 27 October. Shumeiko has long called
for extending the term of the current Federation Council and it seems
unlikely that the sides will be able to agree on a new law before the
current Council's term expires in December. The president wants to
maintain the right to appoint some members of the Federation Council,
while the Duma is pushing for them to be elected. -- Robert Orttung

CONGRESS OF RUSSIAN COMMUNITIES BEGINS REFERENDUM DRIVE. The 10 November
meeting of the Congress of Russian Communities (KRO) supported holding a
national referendum on amending the constitution to strengthen popular
oversight over the authorities. The movement set up an initiative
committee to begin collecting the 2 million signatures required by law
to call a referendum. KRO leader Yurii Skokov described the referendum
as more important than the Duma elections, ITAR-TASS reported. Skokov
said that the KRO now boasts 460,000 members in Russia. Deputy leader
Aleksandr Lebed called for parliament to play the main role in reforming
the military and ensuring social oversight over it. In contrast to KRO's
2 September congress, this one was open to the media. -- Robert Orttung

ORDER OF PARTIES ON BALLOT DETERMINED. The Central Electoral Commission
determined by random drawing the order in which the 42 registered
electoral blocs will appear on the ballot, Russian media reported on 10
November. Women of Russia will be listed first, followed by Aleksandr
Rutskoi's Derzhava and several relatively obscure parties. More
prominent contenders were not so lucky: Our Home Is Russia will be no.
17, Yabloko will be no. 19, Russia's Democratic Choice-United Democrats
will be no. 23, the Communist Party will be no. 25, the Congress of
Russian Communities will be no. 31, the Liberal Democratic Party of
Russia will be no. 33, and the Agrarian Party will be no. 41. (A
complete list of the 42 parties on the ballot will appear in the 14
November OMRI Special Report on the Russian elections.) -- Laura Belin

PROTESTS OVER KAZAKHSTANI COSSACK LEADER'S ARREST. Various Cossack
communities, members of KRO, Pamyat, and other nationalist organizations
in Russia demonstrated on 12 November outside the Kazakhstani embassy in
Moscow to demand the release of Semirechie Cossack leader Nikolai
Gunkin, NTV reported. Gunkin was arrested in Almaty on 28 October while
trying to register as a candidate for the elections. The Cossack groups
blamed President Yeltsin for his failure to take action against the
Kazakhstani government's policy of "pushing out Russians," Russian TV
reported on 12 November. They also threatened to liberate Gunkin
themselves and "whip the unruly Kazakh leaders with lashes," if the
Kazakhstani authorities fail to respond to the Cossack demands, NTV
added. The Kazakhstani authorities claim that a criminal case has been
pending against Gunkin since early this year and the fact that he was
arrested while seeking registration in Almaty is a coincidence. --
Constantine Dmitriev & Bhavna Dave

DUDAEV NEGOTIATOR BLASTS ELECTION PLANS. A negotiator for Chechen
President Dzhokhar Dudaev, Akhmed Zakaev, on 11 November blasted plans
to hold Duma elections in Chechnya on 17 November, Russian agencies
reported. Zakaev told NTV that if the local electoral commission went
ahead with the elections, it would provoke pro-Dudaev fighters to resume
large-scale military action, adding that no elections should be held in
Chechnya before its constitutional status is determined. Meanwhile,
mediator Ruslan Khasbulatov again called for renewed Russian-Chechen
talks but warned that fighting could resume soon if progress is not made
on a political settlement. Sporadic fighting continued over the weekend
as federal positions were attacked 29 times on 11-12 November, with
particularly heavy attacks around the town of Bamut and in Grozny,
Interfax reported. -- Scott Parrish

MORE THAN 150 DRUG-RELATED CRIMES REGISTERED IN CHECHNYA. Police have
registered over 150 drug-related crimes, seized nearly 100 kgs of drugs,
and arrested 47 drug traffickers in Chechnya since the beginning of the
year, the head of the Russian Interior Ministry anti-drug task force,
Maj. Gen. Aleksandr Sergeev, told Interfax on 12 November. Sergeev said
the majority of drugs is produced in the mountainous area of Chechnya
controlled by pro-Dudaev rebels. The major general said that every
hectare of poppies can produce up to 50 kgs of opium that can be used to
make 5 kgs of morphine. One gram of morphine is divided into 10 doses
priced at 20,000 to 30,000 rubles each ($4.42-$6.64). The rebels use the
money to buy arms. Opium and heroine also make their way to Chechnya
from Tajikistan and Afghanistan. -- Thomas Sigel

YETLSIN APPROVES NATO PLAN FOR BOSNIA. The presidential press service
announced that Yeltsin has approved the compromise command arrangements
for Russian participation in the proposed Bosnian peace implementation
force, which Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev and his U.S.
counterpart, William Perry, hammered out last week. Yeltsin ordered the
Defense and Foreign ministries to work out a common approach to the
still unresolved problem of political control over the proposed
peacekeeping force. -- Scott Parrish

STEPASHIN APPOINTED TO GOVERNMENT STAFF POST. Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin has appointed former Federal Security Service (FSB)
Director Sergei Stepashin to head the Administrative Department of the
government apparatus, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 November. According to an
anonymous source in the presidential administration, in his new position
Stepashin will oversee interdepartmental coordination among Russian
security and intelligence services. Stepashin was sacked as FSB chief in
July, along with Interior Minister Viktor Yerin and Deputy Prime
Minister Nikolai Yegorov, following the Budennovsk hostage crisis. All
three have now been reappointed to posts in the executive branch. --
Scott Parrish

GAS PIPELINE SABOTAGED. An explosion and subsequent fire destroyed 250
meters of a gas pipeline near Vladikavkaz in North Ossetiya on 11
November, Russian and Western agencies reported. The damage to the
pipeline caused a temporary shutoff of gas supplies to Armenia and
Georgia, but the flow was later diverted to alternate routes and
restored. The explosion apparently resulted from sabotage and Georgian
officials accused South Ossetiyans of causing it, according to ITAR-
TASS. Gas and oil pipelines have frequently been targeted by combatants
in the region's conflicts. -- Scott Parrish

NEW CENTRAL BANK CHIEF TAKES CHARGE. In his first press conference, the
new acting head of the Central Bank of Russia, Aleksandr Khandruev,
signaled that he will take an active role in trying to deal with the
liquidity crisis facing the Russian banking system. When asked to
comment on his temporary appointment, he remarked that "temporary can
become permanent," Segodnya reported on 11 November. The same day,
Rossiiskaya gazeta suggested that President Boris Yeltsin is likely to
nominate Khandruev to be the permanent head of the bank, describing him
as a pragmatic professional whose "policies are close to those of Viktor
Gerashchenko" (the former bank chief, who opposed former Prime Minister
Yegor Gaidar's monetarism). It now seems clear that Tatyana Paramonova
did not leave of her own volition but was forced to resign by the
government. -- Peter Rutland

HIGH PRICES FOR SUGAR, PETROL. The prices of a number of commonly used
goods in Russia have overtaken world prices this year, given the current
exchange rate of roughly 4,500 rubles to $1, according to a report by
the government economic center. Whereas in March the prices of 24% of
goods studied by the center exceeded world levels, by September that
proportion had jumped to 58%. The prices paid by enterprises for petrol
and sugar, for example, were 78% and 68% higher than world market prices
respectively, Izvestiya reported on 10 November. That situation occurred
because domestic prices are still rising while the value of the ruble
against the dollar has been held stable. By September, even electricity
cost 2% more than the world average. The cost of a ton of crude oil,
however, was still only 62% of the world price. -- Penny Morvant

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

DEMONSTRATIONS AGAINST AZERBAIJAN'S CONSTITUTION IN TABRIZ. Tens of
thousands of people demonstrated in Tabriz, the main town in Iran's East
Azerbaijan province, against what they called "anti-Islamic" changes
being made to the Azerbaijani Constitution, AFP reported on 11 November.
The demonstrations occurred after Friday prayers on 10 November and on
the eve of Azerbaijan's simultaneous parliamentary elections and
referendum on the new constitution. The demonstrations were allegedly
called to protest the draft constitution's separation of state and
religion and its failure to mention Islam as the country's national
religion; protesters called on Iran to "reconsider relations with
Azerbaijan" if the draft is voted into law. -- Lowell Bezanis

OPPOSITION MAY BOYCOTT NEW GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT. The leaders of the
Georgian opposition parties are dissatisfied by the results of the
parliamnetary elections and are seriously discussing the creation of an
alternative parliament, Interfax reported on 12 November. The results
are controversial because even though many opposition parties did not
overcome the 5% threshold, they in total received 62% of the vote. The
three parties who will get the seats in the parliament won only 38% in
total. The Central Electoral Commission announced also that the second
round of the elections in single-mandate constituencies will take place
on 19 November. -- Irakli Tsereteli

KAZAKHSTAN TO RECEIVE MILITARY JETS FROM RUSSIA. The Russian government
will provide Kazakhstan's Defense Ministry with 43 jets, including 21
MiG-29s, by the end of 1995, as compensation for nuclear warheads and
strategic bombers withdrawn from the republic two years ago, Panorama
reported on 11 November. Kazakhstan will receive another 30 modern
military jets over the next two years, First Deputy Prime Minister
Nigmatzhan Isingarin said at a press conference held to discuss the
bilateral agreements negotiated during the recent meeting of CIS heads
in Moscow. The creation of a joint air defense system and the lease of
the Baikonur cosmodrome were among other issues raised during the
Kazakhstani-Russian military negotiations. -- Vyacheslav Kozlov in
Almaty

PAKISTAN'S PRIME MINISTER VISITS UZBEKISTAN. On 11 November, Prime
Minister Benazir Bhutto paid a one-day visit to Tashkent to meet with
Uzbek President Islam Karimov at the latter's invitation for talks on
the civil war in Afghanistan, ITAR-TASS reported. Karimov stressed the
importance of keeping foreign powers out of Afghanistan's leadership
decisions, Reuters reported, adding that at the same time, the war
itself should be a concern for neighboring states. Meanwhile, Bhutto
emphatically declared Pakistan neutral in the conflict, despite
persistent claims by the Afghan government that her country supports the
rebel Taliban group. Bhutto's trip follows on the heels of a visit by
Foreign Minister Aseff Ahmad Ali to northern Afghanistan where he met
with General Abdul Rashid Dostum, who maintains control of that part of
the country. -- Roger Kangas

NO PROGRESS AT KARABAKH TALKS. The latest round of peace talks between
Armenia and Azerbaijan ended in Moscow on 12 November without recording
any progress, Russian and Western media reported. The Russian co-
chairman of the Minsk Conference for Nagorno-Karabakh, Vladimir
Kazimirov, said the two sides had followed Russia's initiative to
consider the problem of the strategic Lachin corridor which connects
Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia, Interfax reported the same day. The
proposal appears to provide for the demilitarization of Lachin and
adjacent areas in order to turn the region into a safe "transit zone"
for people and cargo. The next round of talks are scheduled to begin in
Bonn on 22 November. -- Lowell Bezanis

[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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