We are always the same age inside. - Gertrude Stein
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 250, Part I, 28 December 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/Index.html

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^TODAY'S TOP STORY^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
RUSSIAN FORCES BOMBARD CHECHEN VILLAGES. Russian artillery bombarded
Achkhoi-Martan, southwest of Grozny on 27 December, despite the
withdrawal from the town of the Chechen forces loyal to President
Dzhokhar Dudaev who had occupied it since 16 December, according to
Russian Public TV (ORT) and AFP. Hundreds are thought to have been
killed in the last two weeks of fighting. Several other villages were
also targeted by Russian warplanes. Speaking at a wreath-laying ceremony
in Moscow on 27 December to mark the sixteenth anniversary of the Soviet
invasion of Afghanistan, Col. Gen. Boris Gromov, whose My Fatherland
party failed to clear the 5% hurdle in the Duma elections, called for an
immediate withdrawal of Russian forces from Chechnya, NTV reported. --
Liz Fuller
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

RUSSIA

CHERNOMYRDIN PLEASED WITH GOVERNMENT'S WORK. Addressing the government
meeting on 28 December, Prime Minister Victor Chernomyrdin declared his
satisfaction with the government's performance in 1995, ITAR-TASS
reported the same day. He argued that inflation is under control, the
fall in output and income has been halted, and that the securities
market has been "put on its feet." He said that "next year will be
decisive" and urged ministers to work as a unified team, rather than
pursuing their separate agendas. In a press conference for ITAR-TASS the
previous day, the prime minister singled out the strengthening of the
ruble and overcoming the August bank crisis as the government's main
achievements. -- Peter Rutland

BELYAEV TO LEAD OUR HOME IS RUSSIA IN DUMA. At a meeting of deputies
elected to represent Our Home Is Russia (NDR) in the Duma, former State
Property Committee Chairman Sergei Belyaev was chosen to lead the bloc's
faction in parliament, ITAR-TASS reported on 27 December. Belyaev took
leave from his government post in August in order to run the campaign
for Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's bloc. On 26 December,
Chernomyrdin addressed a meeting of 70 deputies in the Duma who are
sympathetic to NDR, Segodnya reported the next day. He said that Yabloko
is the closest faction to NDR but added that "there are rational,
effective, and responsible deputies in all the factions." He said NDR
would seek a "working dialogue" with "social democrats" within the
Communist faction. -- Laura Belin and Peter Rutland

ELECTORAL COMMISSION REGISTERS GROUPS BACKING YELTSIN, RUTSKOI FOR
PRESIDENT. On 25 December the Central Electoral Commission (TsIK)
registered groups nominating Boris Yeltsin and two other candidates for
16 June presidential elections, Russian media reported. Yeltsin has said
he will decide in February whether to run for re-election. An initiative
group nominating Derzhava leader Aleksandr Rutskoi was also registered
on its second attempt. On 14 December the TsIK refused to register
Rutskoi's supporters, on the grounds that they had filled out the
documents incorrectly. The third group registered on 25 December is
nominating Andrei Zavidiya, director of the Galant concern. According to
ITAR-TASS, Zavidiya is best known for having been the vice-presidential
candidate on Vladimir Zhirinovsky's ticket during the 1991 presidential
elections. Laura Belin

ZHIRINOVSKY FAILS TO APPEAR IN COURT AGAIN. Former Federal Security
Service (FSB) Director Sergei Stepashin's lawsuit against Liberal
Democratic Party (LDPR) leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky was postponed for
the third time on 27 December due to Zhirinovsky's absence at court
hearings, ITAR-TASS reported. Stepashin filed the lawsuit in November
1994 after the LDPR leader called the Federal Counterintelligence
Service (since re-named the FSB) a "branch of the CIA and the Mossad"
and the leader of Russian counterintelligence "an agent of these
services." On 20 December, Zhirinovsky failed to appear in court for the
third time in his own slander case against Andrei Kozyrev, who called
him a "fascist" on NTV in January 1994. -- Laura Belin

JOURNALIST KILLED IN KRASNOYARSK. Vadim Alferev, a crime reporter for
the Krasnoyarsk newspaper Segodnyashnyaya gazeta, was beaten to death
outside his apartment building on 27 December, Russian media reported.
Alferev had reportedly received numerous phone threats after writing
about economic crimes. According to Oleg Panfilov of the Glasnost
Defense Foundation, Alferev became the fifteenth journalist to be killed
in Russia in 1995; 10 of those died in Chechnya. Also on 27 December,
the head of the Arint gold trading firm in Magadan, Nikolai Kovalchuk,
was stabbed to death as he left his apartment, Radio Rossii reported the
same day. -- Laura Belin

NEWSPAPER FIREBOMBED IN VOLOGDA. Meanwhile, on 24 December authorities
arrested a man who confessed to firebombing the offices of the Vologda
newspaper Russkii sever, ITAR-TASS reported. According to Izvestiya on
26 December, the suspect had worked as a driver for an entrepreneur and
deputy in the regional legislature who lost his bid for a single-member
Duma seat in Vologda. Russkii sever had endorsed the candidate who won
the seat. -- Laura Belin

YELTSIN MEETS WITH KOZYREV. With many anticipating his removal, Russian
Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev met with President Yeltsin on 27
December, Russian and Western agencies reported. Kozyrev said that
Yeltsin had postponed any decision on Kozyrev's future until he
"officially" returns to work. According to the Russian constitution,
government ministers cannot hold seats in the Duma, forcing Kozyrev to
choose between the Murmansk seat he won on 17 December and his
ministerial portfolio before the new Duma opens on 16 January. Yeltsin
also instructed Kozyrev to visit Kandahar and obtain the release of
seven Russian air crew held captive by the Afghan Taliban movement since
3 August. -- Scott Parrish

BORDER GUARDS' DIRECTOR ASKS FOR MORE MONEY. Russian Federal Border
Service (FPS) Director Andrei Nikolaev said at a news conference on 27
December that FPS needs more money to safeguard the world's longest
frontier, Russian and Western agencies reported. The FPS asked for 12
billion rubles ($2.6 million) from the 1996 budget but was awarded less
than 6 billion rubles. Nikolaev said that in 1995 Russian border guards
detained more than 3,000 people and along with customs officers
confiscated contraband worth 27 billion rubles ($5.8 million). --
Constantine Dmitriev

DUMA AGAIN OVERRIDES VETO ON MILITARY LAW. During its last session on 22
December, the Duma overrode the Federation Council's veto on changes to
the law on military service, Interfax reported. The Duma insists that
the service term for draftees called up before 1 October 1995, those
serving in the "hot spots," and those with a single parent over the age
of 53 should be 18 months instead of two years (see OMRI Daily Digest,
20 December 1995). The bill now goes to President Boris Yeltsin who must
either sign or reject it within two weeks. He vetoed a similar measure
on 4 December but issued a decree limiting service to 18 months for
those involved in combat duties for at least one month. -- Constantine
Dmitriev

AN EXPLOSIVE YEAR IN MOSCOW. The Moscow police announced that there were
106 criminal explosions in Moscow in the first 11 months of 1995, Radio
Rossii reported on 27 December. Fifteen persons were killed and 56
wounded, but arrests were made in only six cases. Most bombings were
connected to commercial activities, such as unpaid debts. Police fear
that the low detection rate will only encourage criminals to resort to
such measures in the future. -- Peter Rutland

COLD CHRISTMAS. A total of 248 people have frozen to death in the
streets of Moscow since the beginning of November, ITAR-TASS reported on
26 December. Most were drunks who collapsed while strolling, rather than
homeless people. Health authorities are warning people to stay at home
during the New Year festivities. Meanwhile, Russian and Western agencies
report that Russia and Ukraine are in the grip of a major flu epidemic;
one million people have fallen ill in Moscow, 230,000 in Yekaterinburg,
and two million in Kiev. It is thought that flu is of a different strain
than that circulating in the West. -- Peter Rutland

YELTSIN EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER AIR SAFETY. The former head of the CIS
armed forces, Marshal Yevgenii Shaposhnikov, who is now director of
Aeroflot-Russian International Airlines, met with President Yeltsin on
23 December, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. Yeltsin instructed him to
take steps to improve air safety. The meeting follows the 7 December
crash in the Far East of a Tu-154 operated by Khabarovsk Airlines, which
killed all 97 people on board. Preliminary investigations suggest that
poor maintenance of the 20-year-old plane may have been the cause. The
plane had been fitted with a new engine just two weeks before the crash.
ITAR-TASS reported on 26 December that the crash of an Azerbaijani
Airlines Tu-134 on 5 December, which killed 50 people, was due to the
use of faulty parts in a recent engine repair. -- Peter Rutland

RUSSIA TO LAUNCH OWN DIAMOND EXCHANGE. The head of the Russian
Association of Diamond Producers, Ararat Evoyan, said Russia will launch
its first exchange for uncut and polished diamonds in January, Russian
agencies reported on 27 December. Russian officials had failed to reach
agreement with the South African corporation De Beers for renewal of a
1990 contract that gave the latter exclusive rights to market Russian
diamonds abroad. The contract was extended for one month while talks
continue. Russian producers complain that De Beer's prices are too low
and that they are excluded from the more profitable stone polishing
work. Russia extracts nearly 25% of the world's uncut diamonds, but its
shares of global diamond polishing and jewelry manufacture are only 6.7%
and 0.4% respectively. -- Natalia Gurushina

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

ANTI-GOVERNMENT LEAFLETS DISTRIBUTED IN AZERBAIJAN. Anti-government
leaflets produced and signed by a secret union of students named after
Musavat party leader Memet Emin Rasulzade were distributed in Ganja on
22 December, Turan reported. The union criticized the country's
leadership for allegedly betraying national interests and accused
President Heidar Aliev's son Ilham of gambling away millions of dollars
while the population is on the breadline; the leaflets also criticized
the political opposition for its passivity. In November, the union had
distributed comparable leaflets in Ganja and Baku. -- Liz Fuller

FORMER GEORGIAN DEFENSE MINISTER ON TRIAL. The trial of former Georgian
Defense Minister Tengiz Kitovani on charges of creating an illegal
military formation opened in Tbilisi on 27 December and was promptly
adjourned until 9 January, Russian media reported. Kitovani was arrested
in January 1995 after launching a crusade to bring the breakaway region
of Abkhazia back under Tbilisi's jurisdiction. Former Georgian Prime
Minister Tengiz Sigua, a co-founder with Kitovani of the National
Liberation Front of Abkhazia, is not facing legal action. -- Liz Fuller

KAZAKHSTAN, ISRAEL SIGN AGREEMENTS, NAZARBAYEV MEETS ARAFAT. Kazakhstani
President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres
signed four accords on bilateral cooperation in the fields of health,
agriculture, the environment, and investment protection on 27 December,
AFP reported. Nazarbayev, on a three-day visit to Israel, said
Kazakhstan would soon open an embassy in Israel. The Kazakhstani
president also took the opportunity to meet with Palestinian leader
Yasser Arafat in Gaza City where the two signed agreements on economic
cooperation and education. Nazarbayev said he supported "the creation of
an independent Palestinian state." -- Bruce Pannier

ANOTHER DECREE ON STRENGTHENING PRESIDENCY IN KAZAKHSTAN. Kazakhstani
President Nursultan Nazarbayev issued a decree strengthening the powers
of the president on 27 December, Kazakhstanskaya pravda reported the
following day. The decree states that the president determines the basic
course of domestic and foreign policies and serves as the symbol and
guarantor of national unity, state power, the constitution, and
citizens' rights. In addition, it allows the president to order
parliamentary elections, to annul any existing law, and to demand the
government's resignation. The decree also states that the same person
cannot be elected president more than two times in a row. -- Bhavna Dave
in Almaty

AKAYEV PROMISES CHANGES IN GOVERNMENT. Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev
told a press conference on 27 December that there would be "radical
changes" in the government following his victory in the 24 December
election, according to Interfax. Akayev said he would ask for
international help to develop a national program for battling crime,
which he singled out as the gravest problem in the country. He also said
he would demand that presidential powers be broadened at the first
session of the Kyrgyz parliament. Akayev dismissed speculation that he
plans to purge the opposition but added that he will not give government
posts to those candidates that ran against him in the election. -- Bruce
Pannier

[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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