What you can become, you are already. - Friedrich Hebbel
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 222, Part I, 14 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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
YELTSIN: ELECTIONS ON SCHEDULE BUT UNDER DIFFERENT RULES. President
Boris Yeltsin said he wants the Duma elections to take place on schedule
but is also seeking to ensure that there can be no doubt about their
legitimacy. In a conversation with his aide, Georgii Satarov, he made
clear that he is concerned about problems with the electoral law and
wants the Duma to approve corrections to it before the 17 December
elections, NTV reported on 14 November. The Supreme Court and a group of
Duma deputies have asked the Constitutional Court to rule on the 5%
barrier for parties to enter the Duma. Making any changes to the law a
few weeks before the elections will be extremely difficult since there
are numerous parties with different interests involved. Rossiiskie vesti
reported on 14 November that various deputy groups have come up with at
least three different amendments to the law. Yeltsin has also requested
that the Federation Council officially announce the date of the
presidential election as 16 June 1996 to put an end to speculation that
it will be postponed. -- Robert Orttung
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

RUSSIA

YELTSIN REORGANIZES PRESIDENTIAL ADMINISTRATION. Although he is still in
hospital, President Yeltsin is moving to tighten his control over the
often fractious process of policy-making in the Russian executive.
Sergei Filatov, the presidential chief of staff, told ITAR-TASS on 13
November that Yeltsin had instructed him to restructure the presidential
administration to create new directorates for foreign policy, civil
service, and domestic policy. Each of the new directorates will be
headed by one of the president's advisers, such as foreign policy aide
Dmitrii Ryurikov. Also on 13 November, Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev
chaired an interdepartmental meeting on foreign policy, which included
Defense Minister Pavel Grachev, Federal Security Service Director
Mikhail Barsukov, and other senior ministers. The meeting was aimed at
coordinating the foreign activities of the Russian government, which has
been criticized for disorganization in that area. -- Scott Parrish

CONSTITUTIONAL COURT EXPANDS VICTIMS' RIGHTS. The Constitutional Court
ruled that victims of crimes or abuse of power can appeal in court
against a decision to close a criminal case following preliminary
investigation, Russian media reported on 13 November. The court struck
down a statute under which dissatisfied crime victims could only lodge a
complaint with regional or national procurators, on the grounds that
such a limit violates the constitutionally guaranteed right of all
citizens to defense in court. Russian TV predicted that the court's
decision will force investigators to be more conscientious, only closing
cases for lack of evidence when there is real justification to do so. --
Laura Belin

DUMA CALLS FOR INTEGRATION TALKS WITH BELARUS. At its 13 November
session, the Duma passed a resolution calling for the integration of
Russia and Belarus, Rossiiskaya gazeta reported on 14 November. The
resolution called for President Yeltsin to dispatch a delegation to
Minsk for talks on the issue, and recommended that a referendum be held
in Russia on relations with Belarus. Meanwhile, on 11 November
Sovetskaya Rossiya reported the results of a poll showing that 30% of
Russians would vote for Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka if he
could participate in Russian elections. Kazakhstani President Nursultan
Nazarbayev would receive 10% support, while other CIS leaders would
receive little support. In comparison, the paper noted, recent polls put
support for Aleksandr Lebed at only 23%, while all other Russian
politicians garner less than 10% support. -- Scott Parrish

MOSCOW HAILS EAST SLAVONIA ACCORD. Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister
Igor Ivanov, the chief Russian negotiator in the former Yugoslavia,
hailed the recently signed basic agreement on East Slavonia, Interfax
reported on 13 November. Ivanov said the accord offers a "real chance"
to avert a repeat of the refugee crisis caused when Croatia retook
control of Krajina by force in August and demonstrates the "realism" of
Zagreb and the local Serbian authorities. On the same day, however,
Communist Deputy Viktor Ilyukhin, chairman of the Duma Security
Committee, slammed President Yeltsin's recent veto of a bill proposing
that Russia unilaterally exit from UN sanctions against rump Yugoslavia
and accused Croatia of carrying out a policy of "undeclared war" against
the Serbian people. -- Scott Parrish

SIBERIAN COAL COMPANY HOLDS TRAINS HOSTAGE. A Siberian coal company,
Altaikoks, has held two trains and their crews hostage for four days to
protest the railway's decision to cut it off from transport service,
Russian and Western agencies reported on 13 November. More than 60
trains are backed up near the Altaikoks coal company in Zarinsk, due to
the blockage. The railway said the coal company owes 13.6 billion rubles
($2.7 million) in transport costs, and refused further service until the
debt was paid. The local trade union at the train depot in Barnaul said
the situation at the Zarinsk-Kuzbass section of the railroad is
disastrous. -- Thomas Sigel

ANTI-CRIME OFFICIALS MEET IN MOSCOW. Russian Interior Minister Anatolii
Kulikov met with the U.S. assistant secretary of state for international
narcotics and law enforcement, Robert Gelbard, in Moscow on 13 November
to discuss ways to crack down on the spread of drug-related and economic
crimes, ITAR-TASS and AFP reported the same day. Both Kulikov and
Gelbard said that cooperation between the two countries must be stepped
up to tackle the increasingly international reach of criminal
organizations. Since 1994, police have reported 70,000 crimes connected
to drugs in Russia. In September, U.S. police arrested 21 people of
Russian, Armenian, and Egyptian origin accused of tax evasion,
organizing prostitution, and distributing narcotics in the Los Angeles
area. U.S. District Attorney Nora Manella said there are two groups with
possible links to Russian organized crime groups on the U.S. East Coast
involved in various illegal activities, including extortion and contract
killings. -- Thomas Sigel

DEBATE OVER RUBLE EXCHANGE RATE. While the government is celebrating the
stability of the ruble's nominal exchange rate, commentators note that
continuing domestic price inflation (4.7% in October) has led to a 50%
real appreciation of the ruble since May (i.e., an increase of its
purchasing power in dollar terms). Some industrialists complain that
this is undermining the profitability of exports. However, Aleksei
Varnavskii, writing in Finansovye izvestiya on 14 November, notes that
exports are running at a level one third higher than in 1994. He argues
that the ruble is still below its true value, and despite domestic
inflation, the ruble will likely hold to its nominal value against
foreign currencies and even fall to 4,300 to $1. -- Peter Rutland

BANKRUPTCIES LOOM IN ST. PETERSBURG. St. Petersburg firms owe the
federal budget 1.1 trillion rubles ($240 million) and local officials
are preparing to declare the city's first bankruptcies, Kommersant-Daily
reported on 11 November. The paper also reported that Moscow-based
Menatep Bank is launching a court case to get control of Petersburgskii
Tekstil, which has not repaid the 920 million ruble ($200,000) loan the
bank gave it in 1993. Meanwhile, the textile firm continues to receive
new loans from local banks, such as a recent 1 billion ruble loan from
Astrobanka. St. Petersburg is not atypical. According to the Central
Bank's deputy head of research, 16% of all commercial bank loans are
overdue, Delovaya Sibir reported in issue no. 33. -- Peter Rutland

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

OPPOSITION CRITICIZES ELECTION VIOLATIONS IN AZERBAIJAN. In separate
interviews with the European Institute for the Media on 13 November,
Musavat Party Chairman Isa Gambar and Azerbaijani Popular Front Deputy
Chairman Asim Mollazade both characterized the 12 November parliamentary
elections as "a significant step backwards towards authoritarianism."
NTV reported that the opposition Popular Front estimated that only 15-
30% of voters participated in the elections. Officials and unsuccessful
candidates from both parties cited numerous examples of blatant
violations of electoral procedures by representatives of executive power
in rural areas. In some cases, physical violence was used against
opposition candidates or observers. The Popular Front leadership
expressed bewilderment at such "illogical" tactics by the Azerbaijani
leadership, given that restrictions on the number of opposition
candidates registered would in any event have guaranteed the pro-
presidential Yeni Azerbaycan party 60% of the seats in the new
parliament. -- Liz Fuller

ELECTION-RELATED DEATHS IN AZERBAIJAN. Two individuals identified only
as close associates of Kamil Gasanov, chairman of the Cultural Community
of Kurds and a parliamentary candidate in the Lachin Kubatli district,
were shot in a dispute over a vote cast by a person identified as Shamil
Gadialiyev, Turan reported on 13 November. The latter reportedly clashed
with the two men over his decision not to support Gasanov. Three other
people were wounded. -- Lowell Bezanis

RUSSIAN PRESSURE ON ABKHAZIA. In line with a Russian Foreign Ministry
decision dated 30 August, Russian border guards will no longer permit
Abkhaz passport holders to travel to Turkey, Interfax reported on 13
November. In the past, Turkey was the only country that recognized
Abkhaz passports. The Russian decision noted that Abkhaz passports and
visas will not be recognized until the ultimate settlement of its
conflict with Georgia; an unnamed senior Abkhaz official told the agency
that the step is in line with an effort to tighten a blockade on the
region in an attempt to pressure its leadership during the Georgian-
Abkhaz talks. -- Lowell Bezanis

EXPLOSION HALTS ELECTRICITY SUPPLY TO EASTERN GEORGIA. A high voltage
power transmission line blew up about 70 km west of Tbilisi and close to
the border with South Ossetiya, Russian media reported on 13 November. A
source in the Georgian Interior Ministry said anti-tank mines caused the
explosion. The damage, which will halt the electricity supply to Tbilisi
and eastern Georgia, is estimated at $155,000. According to Georgia's
Energy Department, it will take about a week to repair the line.
Meanwhile, heavy snowfall will exacerbate the energy crisis in eastern
Georgia. -- Irakli Tsereteli

UZBEKISTAN RECEIVES EU GRANT. The EU's "TACIS" program gave an $11
million grant to Uzbekistan, Interfax reported on 13 November. The money
will help reform measures in the agricultural sector, particularly in
the regions of Syrdarya, Samarkand, and Ferghana. The news follows an
ITAR-TASS report on 10 November that the EBRD is working out
arrangements to give Uzbekistan $50 million to promote foreign
investment. The expansion is seen as part of a continued liberalization
of Uzbekistan's economy, which has been based on a policy of avoiding
shock-therapy strategies to this point. A bank representative noted that
the credit would "strengthen ties between Uzbek banks and their foreign
partners." -- Roger Kangas

CONTROVERSY OVER EXECUTIONS SHOWN ON KAZAKHSTANI TV. The Russian human
rights group Glasnost Foundation has criticized the Kazakhstani
government for "exploiting the freedom of the press" by broadcasting
criminal executions by shooting on state television, Ekspress-Khronika
reported on 14 November. The documentaries on criminal executions with
commentaries by the Interior Ministry officials shown on the State TV
and independent channel Totem on 15 May and 25 September were sanctioned
by the Kazakhstani president and general procurator. Kazakhstani Deputy
General Procurator Garifulla Utebayev said that the screenings did not
violate mass media laws and were aimed at "informing the public." --
Bhavna Dave

NAZARBAYEV, JUSTICE MINISTER CRITICIZE RUSSIAN MEDIA OVER GUNKIN. A
Kazakhstani Interior Ministry official told ITAR-TASS on 13 November
that Semirechie Cossack leader Nikolai Gunkin was arrested for criminal
acts which could "exacerbate interethnic relations in Kazakhstan."
Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev warned that he will ask all
Kazakhstanis to distrust the Russian mass media unless they begin
publishing "objective information" on the country, Interfax reported on
13 November. Later at a press conference in the Kazakhstani embassy in
Moscow, Kazakhstani Justice Minister Konstantin Kolpakov denied
allegations by the Russian State Duma Committee on Relations with the
CIS and Russians Abroad of "widespread terror" against Cossacks and
Russians by the Kazakhstani interior forces. -- Bhavna Dave

[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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