To live is so startling, it leaves little time for anything else. - Emily Dickinson
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 225, Part I, 17 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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
RUSSIA AND LONDON CLUB AGREE TO DEBT RESCHEDULING. Meeting in Frankfurt,
Russia and the London Club of 600 creditor banks have concluded a
framework agreement on the rescheduling of loans and interest totaling
$32.5 billion, Russian and Western agencies reported on 16 November.
Russia will be granted a seven-year grace period, during which it will
only pay interest. The agreement does not formally forgive any of
Russia's debt, as did a similar agreement with Poland, but it spreads
out the repayments over 25 years. Over the past four years the banks
have avoided the embarrassment of Russia going into default by rolling
the loans forward every 90 days. On 15 November ITAR-TASS reported that
the Paris Club of official creditors had also agreed to reschedule the
$40 billion it is owed by Russia, although they failed to agree on a
timetable. -- Scott Parrish
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

RUSSIA

ZYUGANOV WARNS AGAINST CANCELING, POSTPONING ELECTIONS. Communist Party
leader Gennadii Zyuganov warned on 15 November that there will be
"painful upheavals" if the citizens are denied the chance to vote on 17
December. He is against amending the current election law now, arguing
that it is a task for the next Duma, Segodnya reported on 16 November.
Zyuganov's party benefits from the current law because it will almost
certainly cross the 5% barrier and will gain an even greater proportion
of the seats if numerous small parties are excluded from the parliament
because they won less than 5%. -- Robert Orttung

CONSTITUTIONAL COURT WILL NOT DECIDE ELECTORAL LAW UNTIL NEXT WEEK. The
Constitutional Court will not decide whether it will rule on the
constitutionality of the electoral law until next week, ITAR-TASS
reported 16 November. The Court must meet in full session to decide
whether it will hear a case. The Supreme Court and a group of Duma
members have asked the court to rule on the constitutionality of the 5%
barrier that parties must reach in order to gain representation in the
Duma. -- Robert Orttung

CHERNOMYRDIN OFFERS SUPPORT TO MEDIA LEADERS. In a meeting with media
leaders, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin said that President Boris
Yeltsin could sign the law on financial support to the media -- approved
by the Federation Council 15 November -- as early as December and it
will come into effect 1 January. The law will exempt all forms of media
from a variety of taxes and customs duties, and reduce the costs of
their buildings, equipment, and paper. NTV reported that it is not clear
how the law will be put into effect, since it will cost 1.5-2 trillion
rubles ($330 million to $440 million). -- Robert Orttung

CLINTON BACKS CHERNOMYRDIN. According to an article in Komsomolskya
pravda on 15 November, Russian observers have concluded that U.S.
President Bill Clinton now supports Viktor Chernomyrdin as the best
possible successor to President Yeltsin, should his health prevent him
from running for a second term in 1996. The paper said supportive
remarks Clinton made to Chernomyrdin at their recent meeting on the
sidelines of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin's funeral had left a
strong impression on members of the Yeltsin administration, because they
suggested that Clinton favors Chernomyrdin and that the U.S. president
has started to "give up on" Yeltsin. The paper suggested that American
support could significantly bolster Chernomyrdin in any struggle to
succeed Yeltsin. -- Scott Parrish

FEDERATION COUNCIL OVERTURNS VETO ON SUBSISTENCE MINIMUM. The
Parliament's upper house voted on 15 November to override President
Yeltsin's veto of the draft law on the Subsistence Minimum, Interfax
reported. The veto had been overturned by the Duma on 12 August, and the
law must now be signed by the president within seven days. The draft
legislation envisages a new social security benefit to be paid to
families whose income is below the official subsistence minimum.
According to the Federation Council's Social Policy Committee, the law
would provide the basis for other legislation that would set specific
subsistence levels and determine how the allowances would be funded. --
Penny Morvant

PLANS TO IMPROVE LOCAL GOVERNMENT FINANCING. On 16 November the
government devoted its weekly meeting to a discussion of a draft law to
strengthen the powers of local governments. Russian cities currently
operate in something of a legal vacuum with respect to budgetary powers.
For example, the same day the city of Togliatti, home to the giant auto
plant Volzhskii AZ, announced it would seek designation as a "federal
city" -- a status currently held only by St. Petersburg and Moscow.
Russian Public TV (ORT) reported on 16 November that Togliatti wants to
leave the jurisdiction of Samara Oblast and deal directly with the
federal authorities. City officials complain that they were only able to
retain 40% of the 1.5 trillion rubles ($330 million) in local taxes they
collected this year. -- Peter Rutland

YAKUTIYA TO HOLD REFERENDUM ON EXTENDING PRESIDENT'S TERM. The Federal
Assembly of the Sakha Republic (Yakutiya) has decided to hold a
referendum on the extension of President Mikhail Nikolaev's term of
office until 2001, Radio Rossii reported on 16 November. Backers of the
referendum collected 204,000 signatures in its support. Communist
deputies of the Federal Assembly objected to the decision, saying that
Nikolaev's attempts to prolong his term violates several articles of the
republican constitution. -- Anna Paretskaya

VOLOGDA CORRUPTION SCANDAL. President Yeltsin has asked Procurator-
General Yurii Skuratov to look into a corruption scandal in Vologda
which was exposed in an Izvestiya article on 15 November, Radio Mayak
reported the next day. Senior officials of the farming region were
reportedly involved in the diversion of 26 billion rubles ($5.8 million)
of federal funds and the harassment of journalists who tried to uncover
the story. -- Peter Rutland

NEGOTIATIONS CONTINUE AS CFE TREATY DEADLINE PASSES. Diplomats from the
30 signatories of the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty met
through the night in Vienna to try and reach a last-minute compromise on
the controversial flank limits that Russia refuses to meet, Russian and
Western agencies reported on 16 November. Treaty limits were scheduled
to go into effect on 17 November, and Reuters reported that negotiators
"seem to be inching forwards, but it could be hours yet." On the same
day, a Russian delegation arrived in Ankara to discuss the issue with
Turkish officials. Turkey has opposed changes to the flank limits, and
has threatened to retaliate if Russia fails to honor them. ITAR-TASS
quoted anonymous Russian military officials as saying that despite the
dispute over the flank provisions, Russia was in compliance with the
treaty's overall weapons limits. -- Doug Clarke and Scott Parrish

PERRY: RUSSIANS IN BOSNIAN FORCE MUST OBEY OR WITHDRAW. Contradicting
Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev's claim that Moscow could veto
any order given to its troops in a Bosnian peace implementation force
that it did not like, U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry on 16
November said the Russians must either obey all orders by an American
commanding general or withdraw. Western agencies quoted him as saying
the Russians could not "pick and choose" which orders to carry out.
Perry conceded that any national military force could disregard an order
if they felt it was contrary to their national interest, but their only
other option would be to withdraw from Bosnia. -- Doug Clarke

DUDAEV SPOKESMEN SLAM ELECTION PLANS. Chechen President Dzhokhar
Dudaev's negotiator, Khozh-Akhmed Yarikhanov, blasted plans to hold
simultaneous elections for the Duma and a Chechen head of state on 17
December, Ekho Moskvy reported on 16 November. Yarikhanov said the
announcement of the elections effectively scuttled the already stalled
political talks between his delegation and federal authorities. Dudaev
spokesman Movladi Udugov later suggested to Interfax that separatist
fighters would seek to disrupt the elections if they were held before
Russian troops leave Chechnya. Citing Udugov, Interfax also reported
that 2 civilians had been killed and 12 wounded when federal forces
shelled villages in the Vedeno region, although Gen. Anatolii Shkirko,
commander of federal forces in Chechnya, categorically refuted reports
of such shelling as "provocations," according to ITAR-TASS. -- Scott
Parrish

DEBATE OVER RUSSIAN LOSSES IN CHECHNYA. As the first year of the Chechen
war draws to a close, Russian media are calling upon security officials
to give a more open accounting of the scale of the conflict. The
official casualty list for Russian forces stands at 2,000 federal troops
killed, 600 missing and 6,000 wounded, NTV reported on 16 November. The
monthly death toll peaked at 693 in January and fell to 142 in April,
since then losses have averaged about 2-3 deaths per day. NTV suggested
that the real losses may be much higher. Estimates of civilian
casualties are even less reliable. Radio Rossii reported on 16 November
that separatist forces still have an estimated 6,000 fighters at their
disposal (including about 300 mercenaries), of whom some 2,000 are
opposed to peace on any terms. An upsurge in attacks is expected as the
December elections draw near. -- Peter Rutland

GRACHEV: RUSSIA CANNOT AFFORD A PROFESSIONAL ARMY. Contract soldiers
have proven to be too expensive for Russia, according to Defense Minster
Pavel Grachev, and the military has decided to cut their numbers from
the more than 350,000 presently in service to a little over 100,000,
Radio Mayak reported on 15 November. "If Russia were to have a
professional army," he said, "the entire country would be working for
the army alone just to feed the army." He said the contract system had
failed because the contract soldiers were, as a rule, family men and
needed to be paid much higher than the minimum wage. "If we were rich,"
he said, "it would be a different matter. It would, of course, be
wonderful to have professional personnel." -- Doug Clarke

BILL BANNING MILITARY POWER CUT-OFFS SENT TO YELTSIN. A law providing
for up to 3 year's imprisonment for cutting off the power to military
facilities has been sent to President Yeltsin for signature, ITAR-TASS
reported on 15 November. The law would put some teeth into a 5 November
government resolution banning such blackouts. The military over the past
year has been plagued by a series of embarrassing incidents when local
authorities cut off the utilities to military bases because the military
had not paid its bills. -- Doug Clarke

MANY BORDER GUARDS UNFIT TO CARRY GUNS. Two days after a border guard in
eastern Siberia killed five of his colleagues on a shooting spree, a
report was released concluding that 60% of Russia's border guards are so
unstable they shouldn't be carrying guns. According to ITAR-TASS, the
report was based on tests conducted by doctors, psychologists, and
lawyers following a series of similar rampages by border guards over the
past two years. -- Penny Morvant

PATRIARCH VISITS GERMANY. The Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church,
Aleksii II, arrived in Germany on 16 November, Radio Rossii reported.
During his first visit to Germany, at the invitation of the German
Catholic and Lutheran churches, Aleksii II will meet with German
clergymen, Chancellor Helmut Kohl, Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel, and
other politicians. Aleksii II told his German counterparts that he
opposes transforming international Christian organizations into a copy
of the UN. Meanwhile, Pope John Paul II announced that he would like to
meet with Aleksii II in Moscow soon, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Constantine
Dmitriev

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

KAZAKHSTAN COURT CONVICTS COSSACK CHIEF. The chief of the Semirechie
Cossacks in Kazakhstan, Nikolai Gunkin, was convicted on 17 November on
charges of holding illegal demonstrations, Reuters reported the same
day. Gunkin told the court that he organized a religious meeting on 8
January to mark the Orthodox Christmas day, but denied holding any
"illegal demonstrations." Gunkin, who faces up to a year in jail, plans
to appeal to international human rights organizations. Reuters reported
Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev as saying that investigations
by foreign journalists into the case may be prohibited under a
constitutional clause that bans activities which may destabilize the
country. A report issued by the Kazakhstani-American Civil Rights Bureau
noted that since mid 1994 the Kazakhstani authorities have frequently
denied permission to hold meetings "without giving any reasons," and
arrested the violators by calling them "criminals," Kaztag reported on
16 November. -- Bhavna Dave

RELIGIOUS CONCERNS IN SOUTHERN KYRGYZSTAN. The activities of various
religious organizations in southern Kyrgyzstan continue to be a source
of concern for the Kyrgyz government. Authorities in Bishkek have been
attempting to keep close watch on "propagators of Islamic
Fundamentalism" in the Osh area. A 13 November report from the Kabar
news agency cited by the BBC claims fundamentalist schools are being
opened and imams are calling for a break with Kyrgyz authorities, saying
also that they promote negative attitudes "towards all those who speak
Russian." The same source also claimed that western missionaries are
abusing humanitarian aid to spread their message, saying that when
political parties cannot fill the needs of the people, religious
organizations are quick to appear. -- Bruce Pannier

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Pete Baumgartner

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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