Poetry must be human. If it is not human, it is not poetry. - Vicente Aleixandre
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 1, Part I, 2 January 1996


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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
YELTSIN PLEDGES TO STAY THE COURSE. During public appearances in the
last three days of 1995, President Boris Yeltsin insisted that he would
press forward with economic and political reform in 1996, despite a
strong showing by the Communists in the 17 December State Duma
elections, Russian and Western agencies reported. On 29 December,
Yeltsin asserted that market reform would not under any circumstances be
reversed. Addressing a New Year's reception the following day, he said
that Russians do not notice the main achievement of political reform
which is "freedom," and called on Russians to be more optimistic. Any
attempt to reverse reform, he concluded, would "lead the country into a
dead end." -- Scott Parrish
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

RUSSIA

YELTSIN PLEDGES TO FIGHT POVERTY. In a New Year's address broadcast by
Russian Public TV (ORT) on 31 December, President Yeltsin said that
raising the living standards of the poor is the main task facing Russia
in 1996. Living standards were down 12% over the first nine months of
1995 in comparison with the same period in 1994. He again stressed that
the government must begin to pay wage and pension arrears--a major theme
of his speeches prior to the Duma elections--and said those unable to
sort out the matter should resign. He also promised to crack down on
those in financial bodies who misused funds earmarked for social needs,
calling it "pure theft," and said compensation would begin to be paid to
people who lost their savings as a result of economic reform,
particularly the elderly. Three days earlier, Yeltsin had called for
improvements in the Economics and Finance ministries, saying "saboteurs"
should be rooted out of those bodies. -- Penny Morvant

FINAL DUMA ELECTION RESULTS RELEASED. On 29 December, the Central
Electoral Commission released corrected final tallies for the Duma
election, Russian and Western media reported. A total of 69.2 million of
the 107.5 million eligible voters took part in the election. A total of
1.3 million ballots were declared invalid, although the 5% party-list
threshold was determined using the total number of ballots cast, not
only valid ballots. Four parties, with a combined 50.49% of all ballots
cast, cleared the 5% threshold. There were some minor changes from the
preliminary results issued four days earlier. The Communist Party of the
Russian Federation won 22.30% of the party-list vote and 157 Duma seats
in all. Our Home Is Russia won 10.13% of the vote and a total of 55
seats. The Liberal Democratic Party of Russia won 11.18% of the vote but
only one single-member district, and will have 51 seats. Yabloko won
6.89% and a total of 45 seats. Twenty-four parties that did not clear
the 5% hurdle nevertheless won one or more single-member districts. --
Laura Belin

CONTROVERSY SHROUDS SECOND ROUND OF MOSCOW OBLAST GOVERNOR'S RACE. Amid
controversy and a turnout of less than 28% (barely exceeding the 25%
required for valid elections), Anatolii Tyazhlov was re-elected governor
of Moscow Oblast with 70.7% of the vote in the second round of elections
held on 30 December, Russian media reported the next day. His
competitor, Valerii Galchenko, had tried to withdraw his candidacy on 29
December, claiming an "intolerable" number of laws concerning the
election had been broken, Russian TV reported. However, the regional
electoral commission denied Galchenko's request, arguing that the
deadline for removing his name from the ballot had expired on 16
December. Under Russian law, a candidate cannot run unopposed, so
removing Galchenko's name would have rendered the runoff invalid.
Galchenko has appealed to Russia's Supreme Court to declare the
elections invalid. -- Laura Belin

ANPILOV RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT. Viktor Anpilov, leader of the hard-line
Russian Communist Workers' Party, told a St. Petersburg rally marking
the 73rd anniversary of the creation of the USSR that he will run for
president in 1996, Interfax reported on 30 December. Anpilov was a
leader of the bloc Communists-Workers' Russia-For the Soviet Union,
which won only one seat in the Duma despite gaining a surprising 4.53%
of the vote on party lists. Anpilov himself lost his bid for a single-
member district Duma seat in Saratov. Anpilov's bloc espouses more
orthodox communist views than Gennadii Zyuganov's much larger Communist
Party of the Russian Federation. -- Laura Belin

ZHIRINOVSKY DEMANDS SPEAKERSHIP, MINISTRIES. Speaking at a 29 December
press conference, Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR) leader Vladimir
Zhirinovsky said members of his faction should be appointed to three
ministerial posts and the speakership of the Duma. Zhirinovsky proposed
Vladimir Gusev, who was elected to the Duma on the LDPR party list, as a
candidate for Duma speaker. Gusev, who served as deputy chairman of the
USSR Council of Ministers from 1986 to 1991, "should not raise any
objections from the Communists (KPRF)," Zhirinovsky added. He also said
his party should receive the Education and Social Protection ministries,
as well as the chairmanship of the State Property Committee. The LDPR
hopes to gain the chairmanships of eight Duma committees including those
on the budget, defense, Duma business, and privatization. -- Scott
Parrish

TALIBAN REFUSES TO RELEASE RUSSIAN PILOTS. The release of the seven
Russian aircrew held hostage by the rebel Afghan movement Taliban since
3 August has been postponed indefinitely, Russian and Western agencies
reported on 31 December. Earlier, Taliban agreed to free the crew on 30
December and Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev was expected to be
present at their release (see OMRI Daily Digest, 28 December 1995).
However, Taliban subsequently refused to release the crew, demanding
information about one Afghan citizen whom they claim is detained in
Russia. On 31 December, Taliban even refused to receive a Russian
delegation for further talks, citing "security" reasons, but promised to
continue negotiations in a few days. -- Constantine Dmitriev

DISARMAMENT COMMITMENT NOT MET. Russia has destroyed less than a third
of the 6,331 tanks and about half of the 1,988 armored vehicles east of
the Urals that it had promised to eliminate in a unilateral commitment
given in June 1991 in connection with the conclusion of the CFE treaty,
ITAR-TASS reported on 30 December. Russian General Dmitrii Kharchenko
said Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan also missed the year-end
deadline to destroy former Soviet equipment on their territory, Reuters
reported on 1 January. He said that the Russian problem is purely an
economic one, adding that his country wants the deadline extended until
the end of 1998. However, ITAR-TASS reported that the Russian Defense
Ministry now believes it is not in Russia's interests to scrap the rest
of the equipment and no longer regards the 1991 commitment as binding.
-- Doug Clarke

RECORDED CRIME INCREASES. During the first 11 months of 1995, 2.5
million crimes were reported in Russia, a 5.6% increase over the same
period of 1994, Russian TV reported on 29 December. Among the most
crime-ridden areas were Moscow and Moscow Oblast, St. Petersburg, and
Krasnoyarsk Krai. Economic crime cost the government $4 billion. --
Penny Morvant

BUDGET GETS $1.3 BILLION FROM PRIVATIZATION IN 1995 . . . In 1995,
Russia's consolidated budget received about 6 trillion rubles ($1.3
billion) in revenue from privatization, 3.3 trillion rubles less than
planned, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 December. Of this amount, some 4.7
trillion rubles ($1.01 billion) were generated by 12 government-
organized loans-for-shares auctions. The program was hindered by a
general lack of demand, as reflected in low share prices. In addition,
eight defense companies were withdrawn from the list because of
strategic considerations. In December, privatization suffered a serious
setback with the collapse of the STET-Svyazinvest deal. -- Natalia
Gurushina

. . . PROSPECTS UNCERTAIN IN 1996. Speaking on Russian TV on 28
December, First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais warned that the
government's opponents in the newly-elected Duma are planning "a battle
to the death against privatization in 1996." However, he said that the
millions of new owners will resist giving up their property, and that
"to implement [laws reversing privatization] without spilling blood will
be impossible." He argued that the Duma would face a bureaucratic
nightmare if they tried to roll back the numerous laws, regulations, and
institutions within which the newly-privatized firms are embedded. On
the same day, President Yeltsin signed into force a new 100-page law on
joint stock companies. -- Peter Rutland

NEW RUBLE CORRIDOR IN EFFECT. The new ruble corridor went into effect on
1 January. Between now and the end of June the government will intervene
to ensure that the ruble stays within the range of 4,550-5,150 rubles to
$1. The ruble currently trades at around 4,650 to $1. The previous band,
introduced on 5 June 1995, was 4,300-4,900 rubles to $1. First Deputy
Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets welcomed Russia's continuing boom in
foreign trade, which he said rose 24% in 1995, ITAR-TASS reported on 1
January. However, he warned that import restrictions may be introduced
on industrial machinery, particularly for the oil and gas industry, in
order to protect Russian manufacturers. -- Peter Rutland

RUSSIA TO IMPORT GRAIN. Deputy Economics Minister Ivan Starikov
confirmed that Russia will have to buy grain abroad after 1995's
disappointing 65 million ton harvest, the worst since 1963. Speaking on
Radio Rossii on 1 January, he said most import orders will be placed by
regional purchasing funds. AFP reported on 30 December that the federal
fund itself has only 1 million of the 5 million tons of grain it needs.
Russian grain imports fell from 35 million tons in 1991 to 11 million in
1993 and 3 million in 1994. -- Peter Rutland

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

AKAYEV TAKES OATH IN KYRGYZSTAN. Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev took the
oath of office on 30 December after winning re-election the week before,
international media reported. Akayev said that he would launch a "a real
war" on crime during his new term in office, something he alluded to in
the latter half of 1995. He also repeated that there would be personnel
changes in the national and local governments to remove individuals who
have hindered reforms. He also said taxation laws would be changed and
pledged to continue market reforms in the country. Akayev claimed that
the fact that he won more than 70% of the vote is a sign that the people
support a policy of "democratization and reforms." -- Bruce Pannier

32 JOURNALISTS KILLED IN CIS IN 1995. Thirty-two journalists were killed
in CIS states last year, a sharp increase from the 18 who were killed
last year, Oleg Panfilov of the Glasnost Defense Foundation told Western
agencies on 30 December. Fifteen of them were killed in Russia, 10 of
them in Chechnya. A dozen more were killed in Tajikistan, the most
recent of which was BBC correspondent Mehitdin Olimpur who was found
shot several times near the state university in Dushanbe on 12 December
(see OMRI Daily Digest, 13 December 1995). In many instances, the
journalists were not simply killed in combat situations, but rather as a
result of their investigative reporting, as exemplified by last week's
murder of Vadim Alferev in Krasnoyarsk. Alferev, who had written on
economic crimes, was found beaten to death outside his apartment (see
OMRI Daily Digest, 28 December 1995). -- Roger Kangas

GDP CONTINUES TO DECLINE FOR CIS STATES IN 1995. The CIS Statistics
Committee's released its economic figures for the January-November 1995
period on 29 December, AFP reported. According to the committee's
figures, Russia's GDP fell by 4%, while Armenia registered GDP growth of
5%. Azerbaijan and Ukraine had the worst performances with GDP falling
in those countries by 17.4% and 12% respectively. The report also noted
that industrial output for the CIS fell by 6.1%. Inflation continues to
be a problem, with November levels ranging from 2.5% in Azerbaijan
(lowest) to 56.9% (Tajikistan). Finally, the official figures on CIS
unemployment remain very low, with only 2.9 million people registered as
unemployed. The lowest rate is in Uzbekistan (0.3%) and the highest in
Armenia (8.0%). According to a U.S. General Accounting Office report
cited by Western agencies on 30 December, the U.S. has delivered $3.5
billion in aid to the former Soviet Union since 1991. The aid ranges
from $97 per capita in Armenia to $11.60 in Russia and $7 in Azerbaijan.
-- Roger Kangas

[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) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc.
                       All rights reserved. ISSN 1211-1570
 
         

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