The salvation of mankind lies only in making everything the concern of all. - Alexander Solzhenitsyn
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 32, Part I, 14 February 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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
GAIDAR CALLS ON YELTSIN NOT TO RUN. Russia's Democratic Choice leader
Yegor Gaidar called on President Boris Yeltsin not to run for re-
election, saying it would "virtually guarantee" Zyuganov's victory in
the runoff, Express-Khronika reported on 14 February. Gaidar has
rejected an alliance with Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii, arguing
that "many democrats have refused to vote for him under any conditions."
Gaidar believes that Yeltsin's exit would open the door for more
palatable candidates, such as Nizhnii Novgorod Governor Boris Nemtsov or
Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. A recent VCIOM poll suggested that
Zyuganov would beat Yeltsin or Zhirinovsky in the second round, but
would lose to Yavlinskii. -- Robert Orttung
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

RUSSIA

PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES PREPARE TO ANNOUNCE. On 14 February President
Boris Yeltsin travelled to his hometown of Yekaterinburg, where he is
expected to announce his candidacy for the presidency the next day,
Russian media reported. Also on 15 February the Communist Party of the
Russian Federation will convene a national conference which is expected
to nominate Gennadii Zyuganov as its presidential candidate. On 13
February Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev claimed that a number of other
left and nationalist candidates will withdraw in favor of Zyuganov,
including Sergei Baburin, Vasilii Starodubtsev, Nikolai Ryzhkov, Petr
Romanov, and Aman Tuleev, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 February. He even
included Lt.Gen (ret.) Aleksandr Lebed on the list, although Lebed
himself has given no public indication of such an intention. -- Peter
Rutland

MEDVEDEV DENIES LOCKING NTV OUT OF KREMLIN. Presidential spokesman
Sergei Medvedev said he was "surprised" by NTV's claim that it had been
denied access to the Kremlin, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 February.
Medvedev said that there are varying degrees of access to events and
that journalists cover them on a rotating basis because there is not
enough room for everyone. Medvedev contended that NTV's statement was an
attempt to attract larger audiences, a method he described as
"regrettable." While NTV stuck to its guns, Aleksei Simonov, chairman of
the Glasnost Defense Fund, described its charges as a "canard,"
Moskovskii komsomolets reported on 14 February. -- Robert Orttung

DUMA SEEKS FINANCIAL INDEPENDENCE FROM PRESIDENTIAL ADMINISTRATION. At a
meeting with presidential administration business manager Pavel Borodin,
Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev argued that the Duma should be funded
directly by the Finance Ministry rather than via the presidential
administration as is now the case, Rossiiskie vesti reported on 14
February. Seleznev said such a change is necessary to make it clear that
the president does not control the Duma. He said that when the pay of
Duma members and and staff was delayed in January, many believed that it
was because the president disliked the new Duma rather than the result
of general difficulties in paying state sector employees. -- Robert
Orttung

CAMPAIGN PROMISES COST MORE THAN 41 TRILLION RUBLES. The president's
recent promises to increase social spending on the eve of the elections
could increase budget expenditure by as much as 41 trillion rubles ($8.6
billion), Andrei Illarionov, the director of the Institute for Economic
Analysis, argued in Izvestiya on 14 February. In the past six weeks, he
said, Yeltsin has promised higher pensions and student stipends, greater
benefits for miners, higher defense spending, and large sums to rebuild
Chechnya. Illarionov argues that such spending could drive inflation to
10% a month, cause the International Monetary Fund to deny Russia
further credits, and increase the budget deficit. -- Robert Orttung

LDPR SAYS NEMTSOV ATTEMPTED TO KILL ZHIRINOVSKY. The Liberal Democratic
Party (LDPR) Duma faction has accused Nizhnii Novgorod Governor Boris
Nemtsov of attempting to kill party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Aleksei
Batogov from the faction's press office told OMRI on 14 February.
Batogov alleged that Nemtsov hired an assassin for $5,000 but that the
killer decided not to commit the muder "after he listened to a speech by
Zhirinovsky." He also said that Nemtsov was possibly planning to
assassinate President Yeltsin. The LDPR has called on federal
authorities to sack Nemtsov from the post of governor and arrest him.
Earlier this week, the deputy leader of the LDPR's Duma faction was shot
and wounded by unknown assailants (see OMRI Daily Digest, 13 February).
-- Anna Paretskaya

TALMUD PUBLISHED IN RUSSIAN. The first volume of the Babylonian Talmud
in Russian was presented at the Moscow Mayor's Office on 13 February,
ITAR-TASS reported. It is the first time since before 1917 that the
Talmud, the central work of Jewish civilization, has been published in
Russia. It was translated from the original Aramaic and Old Hebrew by
Israeli Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, who has the title of spiritual rabbi of
Russian Jews. The full Babylonian Talmud is about 2.5 million words
long, and Steinsaltz estimates that, along with commentaries and
interpretations, the Russian version could fill 150 to 200 volumes. --
Anna Paretskaya

GUNMAN ATTACKS RUSSIAN EMBASSY IN NORTH KOREA. An unidentified Korean
gunman burst into the Russian trade mission in Pyongyang on 14 February
and exchanged gunfire with North Korean police guards, killing three and
wounding others, ITAR-TASS reported. Citing anonymous Russian sources at
the Pyongyang embassy, where the trade mission is located, the agency
said that no Russian personnel had been injured and that negotiations
are now under way with the gunman, who is demanding political asylum but
is not holding any hostages. Russian relations with North Korea have
been strained since the Soviet Union recognized South Korea in 1990. The
incident could heighten tension, since a 1957 Soviet-North Korean Treaty
obligating each country to repatriate fugitives accused of crimes in the
other remains in force. -- Scott Parrish

FSB DENIES ADMITTING SMUGGLED PLUTONIUM IN GERMANY CAME FROM RUSSIA. The
Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) issued a statement to ITAR-TASS
on 13 February denying that it had sent a letter to the German Justice
Ministry admitting that plutonium seized by German agents at the Munich
airport in August 1994 came from Russia (see OMRI Daily Digest, 13
February). The statement asserted that the FSB had sent a letter to Bonn
requesting that samples of the "radioactive material" seized in Munich
be sent to Moscow for testing, adding that the origin of the material
could be determined only after such tests were completed. The FSB also
criticized Germany for failing to respond to the request, thereby
hampering its investigation, and accused German media of fostering the
impression that Russia cannot adequately guard its nuclear arsenal by
intentionally misquoting excerpts from the letter. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIA CRITICIZES ARREST OF BOSNIAN SERB OFFICERS. On 13 February,
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Grigorii Karasin protested the
transfer of Bosnian Serb General Djorje Djukic and Colonel Aleksa
Krsmanovic to the custody of the International Criminal Tribunal for the
former Yugoslavia in the Hague (see OMRI Daily Digest, 13 February).
According to Russian and Western agency reports, Karasin described the
transfer of the two officers as "unacceptable" and warned that it could
undermine the implementation of the Dayton Accords. Karasin said Russia
planned to discuss the incident with both the International Tribunal and
the other members of the international Contact Group. -- Scott Parrish

SELEZNEV ENDORSES START II TREATY. Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev told
journalists on 13 January that he supports the ratification of START II,
Russian and Western agencies reported. The communist Seleznev,
cautioned, however, that enlargement of NATO or the withdrawal of the
United States from the 1972 ABM Treaty would kill any chance of
ratification. He added that ratification would not be "simple" but
concluded that most deputies would eventually support the treaty because
"we simply do not have the economic means" to maintain the current
nuclear arsenal. Earlier remarks by communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov
suggested that his party might not support the treaty. Meanwhile, ITAR-
TASS reported that military officers will present expert testimony on
the treaty to several Duma committees on 19 February. -- Scott Parrish

COAL MINING MAYORS UNITE. The mayors of 38 towns in mining regions met
in Moscow on 12 February to form an Association of Coal Mining Towns,
Radio Rossii reported the same day. Association President Vladimir
Astafev, mayor of Leninsk-Kuznetsk, insisted that the group will discuss
social issues such as miners' pensions and "will not engage in political
battles." Yet in the next breath he went on to voice support for the re-
election of President Yeltsin. Comentators suggested that the initiative
for forming the association came from the presidential administration.
-- Peter Rutland

WAGE ARREARS SPARK MORE STRIKES. Workers at Promtraktor, Russia's
largest tractor plant, in Cheboksari, Chuvashiya, went on strike on 12
February, Russian Television reported. The workers, who have not been
paid since September, held a meeting addressed by radical communist
leader Viktor Anpilov. According to First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir
Kadannikov, wage arrears in Russia now total 13.4 trillion rubles ($2.8
billion), of which 3 trillion are in federal budget agencies, ITAR-TASS
reported on 14 February. The head of the federal labor inspectorate,
Vladimir Varovoi, told Trud on 14 February that inspections show that
90% of firms that were late paying wages did in fact have money
available. -- Peter Rutland and Penny Morvant

SCIENTISTS JOIN PROTESTS. Scientists held meetings to protest wage
arrears in St. Petersburg and other scientific centers on 13 February,
ITAR-TASS reported. In 1995, the Russian Academy of Sciences received
only two-thirds of the money allocated to it in the federal budget.
Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Kinelev told ITAR-TASS that by the end of
February 436 billion rubles ($92 million) will be transfered to the
Academy to eliminate their debts. he said that a bigger problem is the
1.5 trillion rubles owed to secondary school teachers, since that comes
out of local budgets. The number of scientific workers has fallen by
two-thirds since 1992. -- Peter Rutland

NOVOROSSIISK STEAMSHIP GETS $225 MILLION LOAN. Russia's largest tanker
fleet company, Novorossiisk Steamship, signed a $225 million credit deal
with 13 foreign banks, Finansovye izvestiya reported on 13 February. Out
of that, $60 million will be granted by the European Bank for
Reconstruction and Development. The credit will be used to buy 11
tankers to be built in Croatia. On 13 December a daughter company of
Novorossiisk Steamship, Novoship, bought a 20% stake in the company in a
loans-for-shares auction. -- Natalia Gurushina

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

MINERS IN SOUTHERN KAZAKHSTAN ON HUNGER STRIKE. About 25 miners in
Kentau in southern Kazakhstan, who have not been paid for 15 months,
have begun an indefinite hunger strike, an ITAR-TASS correspondent
reported on 14 February from the Press Bureau of the Independent Trade
Union of Kazakhstan. The union speculated that the strike could spark
countrywide mass protests as wages are long overdue in a number of other
state enterprises as well. -- Bhavna Dave

KAZAKHSTANI FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS CHINA. Kazakhstani Foreign Minister
Kasymzhomart Tokayev, who is on a three-day visit to China, assured his
counterpart Qian Qichen of Kazakhstan's support for the "one China"
policy, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 February. Tokayev said that the
Kazakhstani government has set up a demarcation committee on the
bilateral border agreement that went into effect last September.
Tokayev's visit is seen as a preparation for a five-nation border summit
to be held in April in Shanghai on creating a 100 km demilitarized zone
between China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.
Kazakhstan and China share a 1,700 km border, some parts of which are
disputed. -- Bhavna Dave

GOVERNMENT CONVOY AMBUSHED IN TAJIKISTAN, 22 REPORTED DEAD. A convoy
bringing supplies to government troops in Tavil Dara was ambushed on 11
February, killing 22 people, according to Russian and Western sources.
The convoy was attacked near the village of Sicharog in the Komsomolabad
region about 100 km from the Tajik capital Dushanbe. Russian Public TV
(ORT) reported on 12 February that the battle lasted several hours and
that 22 border guards were killed during the fighting. -- Bruce Pannier

SHEVARDNADZE CRACKS DOWN ON GOVERNMENT CORRUPTION. Georgian President
Eduard Shevardnadze has ordered the public prosecutor, the auditing
department, and the Interior Ministry to examine the government's
financial activity over the last six years for possible incidents of
corruption, Russian media reported on 12 February. Shevardnadze stated
that "outrageous instances of corruption" had come to light in the
government, including among deputy prime ministers. -- Irakli Tsereteli

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Penny Morvant

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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