When two men in business always agree, one of them is unnecessary. - Anonymous

No. 2, Part I, 3 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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
CANDIDATES. Candidates running in the presidential election scheduled
for 16 June 1996 will have until 15 April to register with the Central
Electoral Commission, Interfax reported on 3 January. By that time, the
commission announced, nominees will have to submit their tax returns for
the two years before the election in addition to a list of signatures
supporting their nomination. Under the law on presidential elections,
candidates must collect at least 1,000,000 signatures, with no more than
70,000 signatures from any one region of the Russian Federation. So far,
the commission has registered five groups nominating presidential
candidates, including President Boris Yeltsin and former Vice President
Aleksandr Rutskoi, but several other prominent politicians have
announced their intentions to join the race. -- Laura Belin


NEW YEAR MARKS FINANCIAL HELP FOR MEDIA . . . On 1 January, three laws
went into effect that will ease the financial pressures on the mass
media in 1996, government press secretary Sergei Medvedev told ITAR-TASS
the same day. Medvedev said the law "On State Support for the Mass Media
and Book Publishing," the law "On Economic Support for Local
Newspapers," and an addition to the law on customs tariffs would ease
the media's tax burden. For instance, beginning in 1996, newspapers,
publishing houses, and printing enterprises will be able to import
paper, audio, video, and other technical equipment duty-free. Medvedev
said the president signed these laws in order to help form a "free and
responsible press"; he did not mention that the president rejected
initial versions of two of the laws earlier this year. -- Laura Belin

. . . AND RISING SUBSCRIPTION RATES. Subscriptions to Russian newspapers
and magazines rose significantly for the first half of 1996, ITAR-TASS
reported on 27 December, citing the Federal Service for Postal
Communications. Subscriptions to all Russian newspapers and magazines
combined totaled approximately 37 million, up 6% from last year.
Subscriptions to newspapers published in Moscow rose by 12.5% compared
to last year, and subscriptions to Moscow-published magazines rose by
13.2%. Nevertheless, the trend of city and regional newspapers replacing
the central press continued. Subscriptions to local newspapers rose 2%
and now comprise 19,3 million out of the total 28.3 million
subscriptions to Russian newspapers. Magazines published in Moscow
remained more dominant. Although subscriptions to regional publications
rose 20% compared to last year, regional publications still only make up
600,000 out of the 8.3 million magazine subscriptions in Russia. --
Laura Belin

Galina Lebedeva, a biologist who has been married to Liberal Democratic
Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky for 25 years, told a press conference
in Helsinki that despite his gift for provoking controversy, her husband
is very quiet and considerate at home, Western agencies reported on 2
January. She said the media often misrepresented Zhirinovsky and took
his comments out of context but admitted he is a "very emotional
person." She added, "Russia needs harsh leadership and extreme views"
given its current political environment. Lebedeva rarely accompanies
Zhirinovsky at public appearances. -- Laura Belin

President Mintimer Shaimiev's popularity rating has more than doubled
from 20.7% in 1991, when he was elected president, to 49.7% in a poll
taken by the Center of Social Studies of Tatarstan in late 1995,
Interfax reported on 31 January. There was little ethnic difference in
his support as 51.2% of the republic's ethnic Tatars and 48.2% of its
ethnic Russian residents expressed confidence in him. On 27 December,
Kazan Industrial Association Teplokontrol nominated Shaimiev as a
candidate in the republic's 24 March presidential election. The only
other declared candidate for the presidency so far is Anatolii Vasilev,
a former employee of the republican Interior Ministry and vice president
of the International Fund for Mothers and Children. According to Russian
TV, Vasilev will probably not manage to collect the 50,000 signatures
that are required to be officially registered as a candidate since he
was not even able to win a seat in the republic's spring 1995
parliamentary elections. Russian law requires at least two candidates to
run in any election for it to be considered valid. -- Anna Paretskaya

NEW FEDERAL COMMANDER IN CHECHNYA. General Vyacheslav Tikhomirov has
apparently replaced General Anatolii Shkirko as commander of the federal
forces in Chechnya, NTV reported on 1 January. Shkirko--who was
reportedly given a "new high-ranking post"--had only been commander
since 12 October 1995 when he replaced the wounded General Anatolii
Romanov. -- Doug Clarke

UNHCR TO STEP UP CHECHNYA RELIEF EFFORT. As a result of recent heavy
fighting in Chechnya, the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) plans
to intensify its relief efforts there, Western and Russian agencies
reported on 2 January. Ron Redmond, a UNHCR spokesman, said that about
14,000 Chechen refugees had arrived in neighboring Dagestan over the
last two weeks, bringing the total number there to an estimated 40,000.
Approximately 45,000 additional refugees are now in Ingushetiya and
North Ossetiya. Redmond said the UNHCR had planned to end its mission on
31 December, but it decided to extend operations until 1 March after
renewed fighting broke out. Many refugees are now believed to have fled
Chechnya for a second time, after returning home this summer during the
ceasefire talks. -- Scott Parrish

conference, retired KGB Colonel Vladimir Alganov denied recent charges
that Polish Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy had worked as a Russian agent,
Russian and Western agencies reported. Alganov, who served in Warsaw
from 1981 to 1992, told journalists that he had developed a friendship
with Oleksy during his stay in Poland but denied that their relationship
ever went beyond "the limits of friendly ties." He also claimed that
Polish intelligence operative Marian Zacharski had followed him to
Majorca in 1994 in an attempt to obtain compromising information on
Oleksy. Alganov said Zacharski must have taped their conversations, and
asserted that the tapes would prove that the charges against Oleksy are
nothing but a "dirty fabrication." Russian spokesmen have made concerted
efforts to discredit the allegations against Oleksy. -- Scott Parrish

2 January that Russia will be "respectably represented" in the UN-
administered international civilian police force currently being set up
in Bosnia. The 1,500-strong police force is to help ensure civil order
during the transition period provided for by the Dayton agreement. The
official said that "at least 100" Russian police officers would
participate in the international force, which is to be deployed in
Sarajevo, Tuzla, Banja Luka, and other towns in both the Muslim-Croat
and Serbian controlled areas of Bosnia. -- Scott Parrish

MIKHAILOV ON NUCLEAR SAFETY, EXPORTS. Russian Minister of Nuclear Energy
Viktor Mikhailov told journalists on 2 January that nuclear smuggling
should be the top item on the agenda for the April G-7 summit in Moscow
(which will include Russia), Russian agencies reported. Mikhailov said
the summit, devoted to nuclear safety issues, should draft "common
procedures" for dealing with nuclear smuggling and tightening control
over nuclear materials. He also announced that his ministry made $1.65
billion from exports in 1995, a significant contribution to Russia's $63
billion in total exports, and not much less than the $2.5 billion Russia
earned by exporting arms. However, many of the countries that want to
purchase Russian civilian nuclear technology, such as Iran and Cuba,
have a questionable ability to pay for it, casting doubt on Mikhailov's
prediction that nuclear exports can be boosted to $2 billion by 1998. --
Scott Parrish

SEMENOV SEES THREATS FROM ISLAM, NATO. Col.-Gen. Vladimir Semenov, the
commander-in-chief of the Ground Forces, told Interfax on 2 January that
the greatest potential threat to Russia comes from the possible spread
of Islamic fundamentalism from the south and southeast. He called for
the strengthening of ties with Russia's "great southern neighbor" China.
Semenov predicted that East European and Baltic countries would
eventually join NATO which would bring "military structures of the North
Atlantic alliance to Russian borders." "We must be prepared for that,"
he warned. He added that the Russian military leadership is particularly
wary of the possibility that CIS countries will receive membership in
NATO. -- Doug Clarke

IRAN WANTS RUSSIAN AIRLINERS . . . Iran intends to buy 12 Tupolev-154
airliners and will manufacture Ilyushin-114 aircraft under licence,
according to the daily Iran News of 2 January. The paper quoted the
Iranian ambassador to Russia Mehdi Safari as saying the negotiations on
the Il-114 were "at the final stage and production will start within a
year." He also said the Tu-154 deal will be signed soon. The two
projects are worth $700 million, and will increase Iran's indebtedness
to Russia to $1.2 billion. Iran will repay the debt in annual
installments of $250 million. -- Doug Clarke and Natalia Gurushina

Signing the Russo-Iranian airplane contract will improve prospects for
the aviation plant in Samara that manufactures the Tupolev-154 passenger
plane and has seen its output fall dramatically since the collapse of
the Soviet Union. In 1995, the Samara plant produced only 11 TU-154
planes, compared to about 70 a year in Soviet times, Russian TV reported
on 2 January. Most of Russia's aviation companies, which were formed on
the basis of regional subdivisions of Aeroflot, are too small to be able
to buy planes outright and the Russian financial system has not yet
developed the kinds of leasing facilities that are common in the West.
-- Natalia Gurushina

Moscow's streets of vagrants, the local authorities will open night
shelters in 10 city districts in 1996, Interfax reported on 2 January.
Currently the city has only one such shelter, with room for 24 people.
The homeless people will be taken to an Interior Ministry center for
identification before being housed in the shelters for up to 30 days
while their future and work prospects are being discussed. A city social
security official said in November that vagrants without the right to
live in Moscow would be expelled (see OMRI Daily Digest, 22 November
1995). The authorities also want changes in the law to introduce
penalties for vagrancy and begging. Police estimate that there are
250,000-300,000 homeless people and vagrants in the capital, half of
whom come from other parts of Russia or from abroad. -- Penny Morvant


Postovalov & Co. has now invested more than $4 million in the Karagaily
ore mining and dressing plant which has started to show signs of
increasing its output, Interfax reported on 1 January. Postovalov & Co.
acquired the management contract in May 1995 and since then has been
able to start an open pit mining operation and an ore dressing mill. The
plant, located in the Karaganda region of northern Kazakhstan, mines
lead and zinc ore and produces zinc and oil concentrates. The plant,
which employs 1,100 people, has recently hired more staff and has
managed to sell its products at a higher price than before. Postovalov
and Co. is expected to increase production, settle the plant's debts,
and pay wages on time; in return it is guaranteed a 10% cut from the
proceeds of product sales every three months. -- Bruce Pannier

has signed a decree lifting customs controls on the Russian-Kazakhstani
border, ITAR-TASS reported on 3 January. Controls will however be kept
in place for goods in transit to third countries. This step is a follow-
up to the agreement on the formation of a customs union signed by
Russia, Kazakhstan, and Belarus on 20 January 1995. Uzbekistan,
Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan have expressed interest in joining the union.
The practicalities of implementing the union, let alone adding new
members, remain unclear. -- Peter Rutland

WAGE INCREASES IN TURKMENISTAN. As of 1 January 1996, various forms of
government support have substantially increased. Student stipends have
increased two-fold, the minimum wage almost threefold, and pensions,
support for families with children, and veteran payments threefold,
Russian and Western agencies reported. According to ITAR-TASS on 2
January, the current monthly minimum wage will now be 20,000 manat
(approximately $8) and veterans and pensioners will now receive 22,000
manat a month. In addition, government subsidies for basic commodities
will remain in place. This means that, with ration cards, citizens can
still purchase butter, flour, sugar, and meat at 1/50th the market rate.
Gas and electricity for apartments are also still free of charge. --
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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