The fool wonders, the wise man asks. - Benjamin Disraeli
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 241, Part I, 13 December 1995


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JOURNALISTS: A directory of OMRI analysts covering Eastern Europe and
the former Soviet Union is now available. You can access it from OMRI's
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request a hard copy by sending an e-mail to specialist@omri.cz
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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/Index.html

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^TODAY'S TOP STORY^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
CHERNOMYRDIN SAYS HE WON'T RUN FOR PRESIDENT. Russian Prime Minister
Viktor Chernomyrdin told the latest issue of Argumenty i fakty that he
does not plan to run for president in 1996, emphasizing his unwavering
support for the re-election of President Boris Yeltsin. A poll by the
Public Opinion Foundation indicated that Chernomyrdin would not be a
viable presidential contender, as only 25% of those surveyed said they
trust the prime minister, while 54% said they do not trust him, Russian
TV reported on 12 December. -- Laura Belin
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

RUSSIA

CHERNOMYRDIN STRIKES PESSIMISTIC TONE BEFORE DUMA ELECTIONS. Prime
Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin has struck a pessimistic note in recent
public appearances. The decision in 1993 to elect the State Duma for
only two years was a "most serious error," he told Argumenty i fakty,
adding that "one can work with this Duma. The deputies have begun to
understand what is what." Speaking on Radio Rossii on 12 December,
Chernomyrdin claimed to have "faith in the reason of the calm, normal
person," but his appeal to voters was quite defensive. The prime
minister promised that the conflict in Chechnya will not be "endless,"
the army's "difficult situation" will not be "eternal," people will not
be left without salaries, and soldiers will not be poorly fed and
clothed. Similarly, he admitted that the economic policies "of the last
decade" had not always benefited rural areas but pledged to continue
agricultural reform without imposing such policies "by force." -- Laura
Belin

GAIDAR ASKS SOME OF HIS BLOC'S CANDIDATES TO STEP ASIDE. Yegor Gaidar,
leader of the electoral bloc Russia's Democratic Choice-United
Democrats, asked Duma candidates from his bloc in several single-member
districts to withdraw in support of representatives from other
democratic parties, Radio Rossii reported on 13 December. In a telegram
to the candidates, Gaidar regretted that no broad democratic electoral
alliance had been formed at the national level and asked candidates who
were unlikely to win in single-member districts to step down to prevent
the victory of communists or nationalists. Recent poll results suggest
Gaidar's bloc may not win the minimum 5% of the party-list vote
necessary to secure seats in the Duma. -- Laura Belin

LEBED DOUBTS THAT PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS WILL BE HELD. Lt. Gen. (ret.)
Aleksandr Lebed, deputy chairman of the Congress of Russian Communities
(KRO), said he doubts that the presidential elections will take place in
June 1996 because President Yeltsin would be held accountable for many
of his past actions if he were to lose the elections, Russian TV
reported on 12 December. Lebed said the only way that Russia can get out
of its current political crisis and become a "great nation" once again
is through change that begins from below. He said such a movement should
begin with the revival of the Russian army. -- Anna Paretskaya

PARTY SUPPORT VARIES ACROSS REGIONS. Polls conducted by the Public
Opinion Foundation suggest that three leading contenders will emerge
from the 17 December elections, although support varies across the
country, NTV reported on 12 December. In Moscow, Our Home Is Russia
(NDR) topped the poll with 16% support, followed by Yabloko with 10%. In
the oblasts around St. Petersburg and Moscow, however, the Communist
Party was in the lead, followed by Yabloko. In Yekaterinburg, Yabloko
led with 12%, followed by 10% for NDR and 8% for Gaidar's bloc. In
Dagestan and North Ossetiya, polls suggest the Communists may get a
third or more of the vote. However, with one week to the election some
20-30% of voters were still undecided. -- Peter Rutland

VOTING TO BEGIN EARLY IN CHECHNYA. Meeting in Grozny on12 December, the
Chechen Supreme Soviet adopted an election law that provides for voting
in the Russian State Duma elections to begin on 14 December, Russian
media reported. Citizens will be entitled to cast ballots in any polling
station, regardless of their place of residence. The law also stipulates
that the 17 December elections for a new Chechen leader will be
considered valid if 25% of the electorate (which includes those Russian
servicemen permanently stationed in Chechnya) cast votes. Also on 12
December, the Chechen Supreme Soviet named Prime Minister Doku Zavgaev
to head a commission that will draft a new Chechen constitution,
according to Russian TV. -- Liz Fuller

CHIRAC THANKS YELTSIN FOR RESCUED FRENCH PILOTS. French President
Jacques Chirac thanked President Yeltsin and his Serbian counterpart,
Slobodan Milosevic, for their role in securing the release of two French
pilots, downed and then held in Bosnia for more than 100 days, ITAR-TASS
reported on 12 December. Bosnian Serb military leader Ratko Mladic said
the release of the pilots was largely the result of Russian mediation. A
Russian military official based in Belgrade said the release of the
pilots will allow Russia and France to contribute in a more constructive
way to the peace process in Bosnia. -- Constantine Dmitriev

RUSSIA MARKS CONSTITUTION DAY. . . Russians marked the second
anniversary of the adoption of their constitution by referendum in 1993
with a public holiday on 12 December. The same day, Sergei Kovalev noted
on Russian TV that the constitution left many issues unresolved, such as
the formation of the Federation Council, and the adjudication of dual
competency between it and the Duma. -- Peter Rutland

. . .WITHOUT A NATIONAL ANTHEM. According to the constitution, Russia
has a national anthem, but the commission which was set up in 1990 to
choose an appropriate anthem recently abandoned its search, NTV reported
on 12 December. It was agreed that the music will be the hymn from
Mikhail Glinka's Ivan Susanin, but the commission concluded that none of
the 8,000 lyrics submitted in the competition it organized accurately
conveyed the essence of modern Russia. The task was simpler in 1833,
when Russia adopted its first anthem, "God save the Tsar." -- Peter
Rutland

DUMA CANDIDATE SHOT AT; DEPUTY RUN OVER. Aleksandr Kashcheev, an
independent Duma candidate from Yessentuki in Stavropol Krai, told
Interfax on 12 December that his car was shot at as he drove home in the
early hours of the morning. He was not hurt. Kashcheev said he believed
the incident was linked to his criticism of the local mafia, which he
claims has links with the regional authorities. The previous day,
another Duma candidate, Anatolii Shabad, was taken to hospital after
being knocked down by a car in Moscow. Shabad, who is a member of the
Russia's Choice faction in the current parliament, is said to be in
satisfactory condition. Another Duma deputy, Vitalii Savitskii of the
Christian Democratic Union, was killed in a car accident on 10 December.
Other members of the CDU insist that Savitskii was the victim of foul
play, but police have dismissed such claims. -- Penny Morvant

NOVOE VREMYA ANALYSES VOROBEV'S DISMISSAL. The latest issue of the
weekly Novoe vremya (no. 48) argues that Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin was the main force behind the dismissal last month for
"gross financial violations" of Col. Gen. Vasilii Vorobev, head of the
Defense Ministry's budget and finance department (see OMRI Daily Digest,
27 November and 1 December 1995). The magazine asserts that Vorobev was
involved in the misappropriation of large sums destined for the army and
that this led to regular delays in the payment of servicemen's salaries.
When Chernomyrdin learned the details, he reportedly went to President
Yeltsin, who fired Vorobev. Novoe vremya speculated that Chernomyrdin's
intervention was linked to his promise on 15 November to pay the
government's debts to the military. Vorobev's dismissal, the paper
contends, would allow him to attribute the shortages not to government
inefficiency, but to the army, while his attempts to remove the "miltary
mafia" would improve his prestige in the military ahead of the
elections. -- Penny Morvant

OIL WORKERS, MINERS ON HUNGER STRIKE. About 60 oil workers from two
villages in the Komi Republic began a hunger strike on 12 December in
Usinsk to draw attention to their dismal living conditions, ITAR-TASS
reported. About 100 families are living in rundown huts in temporary
workers' settlements set up by Komineft and other oil industry
enterprises. There are no facilities, and the area has been badly
contaminated by pollution. The strikers want steps to be taken
immediately to improve their situation and the prompt payment of overdue
wages. Meanwhile, about 20 miners from the Tula coal basin are on an
underground hunger strike to demand the payment of back wages. The
miners are still owed money from August. -- Penny Morvant

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

BBC CORRESPONDENT KILLED IN TAJIKISTAN. The body of a BBC correspondent
has been found on the outskirts of the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, Russian
TV reported on 13 December. The correspondent, Mehetdin Alenpur, appears
to have been killed on 12 December. The report gave no possible motive
for the killing. Police are investigating. -- Bruce Pannier

UN SEEKS TO EXTEND OBSERVER MANDATE IN TAJIKISTAN. UN Secretary-General
Boutros Boutros Ghali has asked the Security Council to extend the
mandate of the UN observer mission in Tajikistan (UNMOT) by another six
months, according to the UN Daily Report on 12 December. The current
mandate expires on 15 December. Boutros Ghali said tension has risen in
the Central Asian republic and spoke of the "worrying" deterioration in
the country. Boutros Ghali blamed Russian border guards for the
obstacles that UN observers have encountered in their investigations of
ceasefire violations. The secretary general called on representatives at
the inter-Tajik negotiations, which have come to a standstill in
Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, to find a way to stop the fighting in
Tajikistan. -- Bruce Pannier

TAJIK PRESIDENT VISITS INDIA. Visiting Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov
met with Indian Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao and President Shankar
Sharma to discuss the situation in Afghanistan and sign several
bilateral agreements on issues ranging from investment protection to
cultural exchange programs, Reuters reported on 12 December. Rakhmonov
called recent events in Afghanistan "disturbing." Sharma said
Afghanistan is a training ground for Islamic fundamentalists who are
"financed and armed by outsiders," a thinly veiled reference to
Pakistan, which the Indian government accuses of backing rebel Afghan
group Taliban. -- Bruce Pannier

SHEVARDNADZE NOMINATES NEW MINISTERS. Georgian President Eduard
Shevardnadze has submitted his list of cabinet nominees to the Georgian
parliament, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 December. Lt. Gen. Shota Kviraia,
the Georgian interior minister for the past two years, has been
nominated to the post of security minister; Maj. Gen. Kakha Targamadze,
the head of the Interior Ministry department on organized crime and
economic sabotage, to the post of interior minister; Irakli
Menagarishvili, former vice-premier and health minister from 1986 to
1990, to the post of foreign minister. Shevardnadze has left some
ministers from the previous government, including the defense minister,
in their posts. The current foreign minister, Alexander Chikvaidze, has
fallen out of favor with Shevardnadze. -- Irakli Tsereteli

IRAN AND AZERBAIJAN. On 12 December, the Iran News carried a sharply
worded editorial saying Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev will be
"personally responsible" for endangering regional stability "if Tehran-
Baku relations are not straightened out," AFP reported the same day.
Iranian Deputy Prime Minister Mahmud Vaezi is currently in Baku for
talks aimed at improving relations with Tehran. The editorial appears to
be part of a campaign to tilt Azerbaijan away from Turkey and the U.S.
Meanwhile, Hoshbaht Yusifzade, the vice president of Azerbaijan's
national oil company (SOCAR), denied reports that Tehran had rejected
Baku's offer to participate in the exploitation of the Caspian Sea's
Shakh-Deniz oil and gas deposits, according to a 12 December report on
Turan cited by the BBC. Relations between the two countries have been
acrimonious since this spring when Baku, under U.S. pressure, withdrew
its offer to sell part of its shares in a deal to exploit three Caspian
oil fields to Tehran. -- Lowell Bezanis

ALLEGED COUP PARTICIPANT SENTENCED TO DEATH IN AZERBAIJAN. Eldar Aliev,
identified as a close associate of former Prime Minister Suret Guseinov,
has been sentenced to death by the military collegium of the Azerbaijani
Supreme Court for his role in the alleged coup against President Heidar
Aliev in October 1994, Radio Rossii reported on 12 December, quoting
Interfax. -- Liz Fuller

[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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