It matters not how a man dies, but how he lives. - Samuel Johnson
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 16, Part I, 23 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 ON PLANS TO RUN FOR RE-ELECTION. President Boris Yeltsin
announced at a Kremlin meeting with the Foreign Investment Advisory
Council that he will probably run for re-election this June, although he
will not make a formal announcement until mid-February, Russian and
Western agencies reported on 22 January. Yeltsin said he expected to
face a "tough battle" for re-election, but he told the foreign
investors, "We will organize the election campaign taking into account
the experience of your countries." -- Laura Belin
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

RUSSIA

GAIDAR AGAINST YELTSIN RE-ELECTION BID. Yegor Gaidar asserted that a
Yeltsin candidacy would be "absolutely suicidal" and "the best present
that could possibly be given to the Communists," Russian media reported
on 22 January. He said his Russia's Democratic Choice party will ask the
president not to run for re-election and will not support Yabloko leader
Grigorii Yavlinskii but would be prepared to discuss the candidacy of
Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. On the same day, Gaidar resigned
from the consultative presidential council, citing "the events of last
week." He did not specify whether he meant the botched Pervomaiskoe
hostage crisis or the departure from the government of Anatolii Chubais,
the architect of Russia's privatization program. -- Laura Belin

RYABOV: PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN HQ SHOULD NOT SERVE ONE CANDIDATE. Central
Electoral Commission (TsIK) Chairman Nikolai Ryabov said any
"transformation" of the official presidential campaign headquarters into
a campaign office for one candidate would be "inadmissible," ITAR-TASS
reported on 22 January. Last week, Yeltsin put First Deputy Prime
Minister Oleg Soskovets in charge of a new presidential campaign
headquarters (see OMRI Daily Digest, 16 January 1996). The remarks are
surprising in that Ryabov has long been loyal to Yeltsin; the president
appointed him to head the TsIK shortly after dissolving the Supreme
Soviet in September 1993. The TsIK has already registered 23 initiative
groups supporting various presidential hopefuls, but Ryabov estimated
that no more than 10 candidates will manage to collect the 1 million
signatures needed to register for the June election by the 16 April
deadline, Russian TV reported. -- Laura Belin

AGREEMENT ON RELEASE OF PERVOMAISKOE HOSTAGES. After two days of
negotiations, the Chechen militants headed by Salman Raduev and the
Dagestani authorities agreed on 22 January that the hostages taken by
the Chechens from Pervomaiskoe would be released on 23 January near the
Chechen village of Novogroznensky in return for the bodies of Raduev's
men who were killed there, Russian media reported. Negotiations are
still continuing on the release of the 29 workers abducted by Chechen
guerrillas from the Grozny power and heat plant on 16 January. At a
press conference in Grozny on 22 January, representatives of various
Chechen political parties expressed their readiness to act as mediators
between the government of Doku Zavgaev and Chechen President Dzhokhar
Dudaev. They also announced that a coalition council would be formed to
expedite the resumption of negotiations and stabilize the political
situation as a precondition for holding new elections, Radio Rossii
reported. -- Liz Fuller

DEPUTIES APPEAL TO CONSTITUTIONAL COURT OVER COMMITTEE CHAIRMANSHIPS. A
group of independent Duma members is preparing an appeal to the
Constitutional Court because they believe that the four parties that
crossed the 5% barrier violated their rights by deciding among
themselves who would chair the Duma's 28 committees, ITAR-TASS reported
on 22 January. The group is led by Women of Russia leader Yekaterina
Lakhova and former Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Shakhrai. The appeal is
unlikely to win a sympathetic hearing since a large majority of Duma
members supported the division of committee assignments. Russian
Regions, a deputy group made of independent Duma members, has already
refused to accept the two committee chairmanships designated for them,
Russian Public TV (ORT) reported on 19 January. As a result, the
committees on northern regions and health care are currently without
leaders. -- Robert Orttung

FRENCH FOREIGN MINISTER MEETS YELTSIN. In Moscow for a two-day visit,
French Foreign Minister Herve de Charette held discussions with
President Yeltsin on bilateral issues, European security, and
preparations for the planned April G-7 Moscow meeting on nuclear
security, Russian and Western agencies reported on 22 January. Later, de
Charette became the first Western foreign minister to meet with his
recently appointed Russian counterpart, Yevgenii Primakov. The French
diplomat said he found Primakov, labeled conservative by many Western
commentators, to be "warm" rather than "tough." He also expressed
understanding for Russian concerns about NATO expansion, saying that the
interests of both the Central European countries and Russia deserve
careful consideration. -- Scott Parrish

U.S. DENIES RUSSIA HINDERING NUCLEAR AGREEMENTS. White House spokesman
Michael McCurry refuted reports that Russia is reneging on a nuclear
inspection agreement reached at the May 1995 Yeltsin-Clinton summit (see
OMRI Daily Digest, 22 January 1995), Western agencies reported on 22
January. McCurry admitted that Russian leaders are "grappling with their
role in world affairs," but he argued that the Russo-U.S. relationship
continues to be characterized by a "spirit of cooperation" and pointed
to the upcoming Washington visit of Russian Prime Minister Chernomyrdin
as evidence. Meanwhile, on 23 January, Izvestiya described Russo-U.S.
relations as having reached their lowest ebb in 10 years, which the
paper attributed to recent personnel changes in the Russian government
and Yeltsin's desire to be re-elected, even at the cost of good
relations with the U.S. -- Scott Parrish

PRISON REFORM CONCEPT APPROVED. President Yeltsin has approved in
general an Interior Ministry concept for reorganizing Russia's criminal
procedure and penal system, Radio Rossii reported on 22 January. The
plan provides for prisoners to serve their sentences in their own
region, for convicts serving their first sentence to be separated from
recidivists, and for the degree of restriction of freedom to be
dependent on a prisoner's behavior. The concept aims to bring Russia's
penal system into line with international standards. Following the
publication in late 1994 of a UN special report likening Russia's pre-
trial detention centers to Dante's inferno, the government has taken a
number of steps aimed at improving prison conditions. -- Penny Morvant

GOSKOMSTAT RELEASES 1995 INCOME DATA. Real incomes in Russia fell by 13%
in 1995 compared with 1994, largely as a result of high inflation in the
winter of 1994-95, Izvestiya reported on 23 January, citing the State
Statistics Committee. The per capita income of 24% of the Russian
population, or 35.6 million people, exceeded 1 million rubles in
December 1995, Interfax reported. For the year as a whole, an average of
24.7% of the population had incomes below the minimum subsistence level,
but the number of people living below the poverty line decreased
steadily from 49.4 million (33%) in January to 28.9 million (20%) in
December and the process of income stratification slowed. In December,
the richest 10% of the population had about 27% of the country's total
income and the poorest 10% had only 2.5%, while 63% of the population
had below-average incomes. -- Penny Morvant

BANKS TO EARN $40 MILLION EACH FROM $100 BILL EXCHANGE. The eight
Russian commercial banks that are carrying out the exchange of old $100
bills for new ones, will earn about $40 million each by charging a 2%
commission, ITAR-TASS reported on 22 January, citing Aleksandr Auzan,
the president of the International Confederation of Consumers' Unions.
Auzan said the commission amounts to a "confiscation" of $320 million
out of the total $16 billion that Russians currently hold in such bills.
Banks, however, insist that the commission is necessary to cover the
cost of shipping the new $100 bills from the U.S. to Russia. -- Natalia
Gurushina

GAZPROM AND BASF TO SIGN DM 1 BILLION CREDIT AGREEMENT. The Russian gas
company Gazprom and BASF will sign a DM 1 billion loan deal to increase
the supply of gas from the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug to Western
Europe, ITAR-TASS reported on 22 January, citing BASF Chairman Juergen
Strube. The Russian government will not participate in the project and
the credit is guaranteed by Gazprom. The joint-venture "Gazprom-BASF"
began constructing a pipeline to transport Russian gas to Western Europe
in the late 1980s. -- Natalia Gurushina

CHERNOMYRDIN REASSURES FOREIGN INVESTORS. At a 22 January meeting of the
government's Foreign Investment Advisory Council, attended by Russia's
senior ministers and top foreign businessmen, President Yeltsin and
Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin assured foreign investors that "the
government will not abandon the policy of democratic reforms [and] the
market," ITAR-TASS reported on 22 January. Chernomyrdin stressed that,
despite the recent cabinet reshuffle, the government is committed to a
policy of financial stabilization and low inflation. He also said that
privatization will continue in 1996 but with some modifications. In
particular, the mass sell-offs of Russian companies will be replaced
with specially chosen case-by-case deals that should make the process
more effective. As regards loans-for-shares auctions, they will be held
in 1996, but the state will retain 51% of companies' equity capital,
according to Yeltsin. -- Natalia Gurushina

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

SHARP DROP IN NEWSPAPER SUBSCRIPTIONS IN UZBEKISTAN. Total subscriptions
to all Uzbekistan's newspapers and magazines represent only 6% of the
1992 figure, according to the 18-24 January issue of Obshchaya gazeta.
The chairman of the Uzbek Journalist Union, Lutfulla Kabirov, blamed the
situation on the fact that the news reports vary very little from one
Uzbek newspaper to the next. Another major reason for the drop could be
the government's tight censorship of newspapers and persecution of
independent-minded journalists. Total newspaper circulation in the
country is expected to drop by another 50% this year. -- Bhavna Dave

ARMENIA, IRAN, AND TURKMENISTAN DISCUSS TRADE. The foreign ministers of
Armenia, Iran, and Turkmenistan met in Tehran for two days of talks
aimed at boosting trilateral economic relations beginning on 20 January,
Western and Iranian media reported the same day. The three ministers
signed a memorandum of understanding that foresees $30 million worth of
three-way trade and outlines cooperation in banking, transport, and
trade, IRNA reported on 22 January. Trade relations between the three
countries currently involve the supply of Turkmen natural gas to Armenia
via Russia and Georgia in exchange for Armenian light and heavy
industrial equipment transported across Iranian territory. -- Lowell
Bezanis

RESPONSE TO MUFTI'S MURDER. Tajik presidential press secretary Safar
Saidov denounced the murder of the country's Muslim spiritual leader,
Mufti Fatkhullo Sharifzoda, as "a terrible sin," according to Russian
and Western agencies. The mufti, three members of his family, and a
religious student were shot to death in their sleep on the night of 21
January by gunmen who broke into their home some 25 km west of Dushanbe.
Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov visited the scene on 22 January and
described the murders as a terrorist act aimed at destabilizing the
peace process. The crime took place on the first day of the Muslim
fasting month, Ramadan. A spokesman for the Tajik opposition, Ali Akbar
Turajonzoda, also condemned the murders. Turajonzoda was the state mufti
before Sharifzoda. No arrests have been made in the case. -- Bruce
Pannier

SPLIT IN TAJIK OPPOSITION PARTY. Rastakhiz, one of the parties in the
United Tajik Opposition (UTO), has split into two factions. ITAR-TASS
reported in January that Rastakhiz had released a statement declaring
its recognition of the Tajik government (see OMRI Daily Digest, 8
January 1996), but party Chairman Tohir Abdujabbor denied this. However,
RFE/RL sources in Dushanbe reported that on 19 January, Rastakhiz Deputy
Chairman Sharafaddin Imomov declared that the party had recognized
President Imomali Rakhmonov's government but would act as a
"constructive opposition party." The Rastakhiz Party leadership in
Tehran countered that it "hasn't and will not recognize the government."
-- 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) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc.
                       All rights reserved. ISSN 1211-1570
 
         

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