The soul that is within me no man can degrade. I am not the one that is being degraded on account of this treatment, but those who are infliciting it upon me. - Frederick Douglass
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 33, Part I, 15 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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
YELTSIN ANNOUNCES CANDIDACY IN YEKATERINBURG. In Yekaterinburg on 15
February, President Boris Yeltsin officially announced that he will seek
a second term. He said that his electoral platform is "practically
ready" but needs some "smoothing" and that he will return to the city to
present it, ITAR-TASS reported. The president said that he did not want
to leave office when the future of reform still hangs in the balance. --
Robert Orttung
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

RUSSIA

YELTSIN CALLS FOR SUCCESSFUL CONCLUSION OF CHECHEN CONFLICT...Yeltsin
said that he hoped the Chechen war would be concluded before the
presidential elections, arguing that "they are sending 18-year-old kids
with no experience to fight against professionals, trained in camps in
Turkey, Iran, and other countries, who are armed to the teeth." He
asserted that he could not just pull the troops out, because in the case
of Afghanistan, once the troops were withdrawn, "civil war flared up
with new force." In issuing a decree on the establishment of a new anti-
terrorist center, he demanded the capture of Chechen leaders Dzhokhar
Dudaev, Salman Raduev, and Shamil Basaev, saying that they should be
shot. -- Robert Orttung

...CRITICIZES PACE OF ARMY REFORM... During his visit to Yekaterinburg,
Russian President Boris Yeltsin expressed dissatisfaction with the
progress of military reform, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 February. Yeltsin
criticized Defense Minister Pavel Grachev, saying that "reform is
proceeding badly, but Grachev seems to think it is going well."
Disagreement among the top brass has hampered efforts to restructure the
post-Soviet Russian military. Yeltsin said a special presidential
commission is considering an overall concept of military reform. --
Constantine Dmitriev

...GETS MIXED RECEPTION FROM LOCAL DIRECTORS. Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor
Eduard Rossel recommended that local factory directors support Yeltsin's
reelection, but his call did not meet with unanimous support, Izvestiya
reported on 15 February. At a meeting with Rossel, the directors
complained that Yeltsin's current policies are damaging production and
entrepreneurship. Viktor Korovin, director of Uralmash, said that people
are looking for someone to blame and thus creating an atmosphere in
which "extremist forces" could come to power. -- Robert Orttung

COMMUNISTS BACK ZYUGANOV. A conference of the Communist Party of the
Russian Federation (KPRF) opened on 15 February in Moscow to nominate
Gennadii Zyuganov as the party's presidential candidate, ITAR-TASS
reported. Deputy KPRF leader Valentin Kuptsov said that the party had
already collected 2.2 million signatures in his support. Kuptsov also
asked the conference to support the candidacy of Kemerovo Oblast
legislature chairman Aman Tuleev. Tuleev's candidacy would attract more
voters, and he would then withdraw in favor of Zyuganov. Duma member
Anatolii Lukyanov said that Tuleev might become the vice president, a
post that Yeltsin eliminated after his conflict with former Vice
President Aleksandr Rutskoi and that could only be restored by amending
the constitution. -- Robert Orttung

TsIK EXAMINES YELTSIN ELECTION VIOLATIONS. At a meeting on 14 February,
the Central Electoral Commission (TsIK) found no evidence that the
Railway and Communications Ministry had pressured its employees to sign
petitions supporting Yeltsin's presidential candidacy, but it is still
investigating another 46 complaints, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported.
When TsIK Chairman Nikolai Ryabov said that the Communists have been the
main force behind discussion of the incidents, Duma deputy Aleksandr
Kravets protested that he was trying to deflect attention away from
possible abuses. On 13 February, Selskaya zhizn reported new allegations
of pressure and bribery during the campaign to collect signatures for
Yeltsin, this time in Orenburg Oblast. -- Robert Orttung

DUMA FAILS TO OVERRIDE VETO ON MILITARY SERVICE LAW. The Duma has again
failed to override President Yeltsin's veto of proposed amendments to
the law on military service that were approved by the previous Duma in
December 1995 (see OMRI Daily Digest, 10 January 1996), ITAR-TASS
reported on 14 February. The Duma Defense Committee strongly recommended
that the Duma support Yeltsin. Defense Committee Deputy Chairman Nikolai
Bezborodov said that approving amendments that shorten the service term
for certain categories of draftees and exempt others would further
aggravate the shortage of enlisted personnel in the military. --
Constantine Dmitriev

DUMA CANNOT AGREE ON LAW ON HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSIONER. The Duma failed
on 14 February to pass in the second reading a draft law that defines
the position of the Russian Federation human rights commissioner, ITAR-
TASS reported. Only 217 deputies voted in favor of the bill, which, as a
constitutional law, requires 300 votes to pass. The law was passed in
the first reading back in the summer of 1994 but has now failed on three
occasions to clear the next hurdle, despite numerous amendments.
According to Ekho Moskvy on 14 February, the Communists favor appointing
Vladimir Isakov, an outspoken opponent of President Yeltsin, to the post
of commissioner. The previous commissioner, Sergei Kovalev, was
dismissed by the Duma early last year following his outspoken opposition
to the government's military operation in Chechnya. -- Penny Morvant

KARELIYA TO CHANGE CONSTITUTION. A working group has been set up in
Kareliya to consider proposed amendments to the republic's constitution,
ITAR-TASS reported on 14 February. Republican deputies are unhappy about
provisions in the existing constitution, which was adopted two years
ago, on the separation of powers between local legislative and executive
bodies. In particular, they want the right to assess the performance of
government members. The need for a two-chamber parliament in a republic
with a population of only 800,000 has also been questioned, especially
as the powers of the chambers sometimes contradict each other. -- Anna
Paretskaya

RUSSIAN REGIONS ON CHECHEN WAR. Supporting the initiative of Nizhnii
Novgorod Governor Boris Nemtsov, who on 12 January published an open
letter to Yeltsin urging the president to end the Chechen war, various
political organizations in Chuvashiya have started petitions calling for
an end to the Russian military operation, Russian TV reported on 14
February. Meanwhile, Cossacks in Stavropol Krai have started a petition
opposing groups that are collecting signatures in favor of an immediate
withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya; they believe constitutional
order must be established first, Ekho Moskvy reported. -- Anna
Paretskaya

GUNMAN IN PYONGYANG EMBASSY KILLED. The gunman who had forced his way
into the Russian embassy compound in Pyongyang was killed (or committed
suicide) during an operation by North Korean commandos, which had been
approved by Russian diplomatic officials, Russian and Western agencies
reported on 15 February. The gunman, identified as Cho Myong-kil, 25, a
sergeant in the North Korean security services, had killed three North
Korean guards before entering the compound on 14 February, where he
demanded political asylum. -- Scott Parrish

COUNCIL OF EUROPE AND EU OFFER RUSSIA AID PACKAGE. Officials of the
European Union (EU) and the Council of Europe signed a 1.2 million ECU
($1.7 million) aid package for Russia designed to foster democratic
institutions, Russian and Western agencies reported on 14 February. The
package, developed in consultation with Russian officials, aims to
assist Russia to make the legal and human rights reforms it has pledged
to carry out to comply with the standards laid out by the Council of
Europe, which has invited Russia to become its 39th member. It contains
six programs, which will assist the development of local government,
human rights organizations, legal education, prison reform, and law
enforcement. -- Scott Parrish

GROMOV DENIES KNOWLEDGE OF MILITARY AID TO AFGHANISTAN. Interviewed on
the seventh anniversary of the withdrawal of Soviet troops from
Afghanistan, Col.-Gen. (ret.) Boris Gromov, now the chairman of the
State Duma's subcommittee on international security, told an RFE/RL
correspondent on 14 February that he could not confirm Western reports
that Russia was providing technical aid to the Afghan government of
Burhanuddin Rabbani. Gromov, the last Soviet commander in Afghanistan,
admitted some Russian military technicians might be in Afghanistan, but
said he did not regard their work as "something negative." He said that
there was a Russian-Afghan agreement that included military aid, but
foreign ministry sources say there are no current military agreements,
only an economic one. Many Western analysts contend that Russia is
propping up the Rabbani government to prevent the opposition Taliban
movement from taking power. -- Doug Clarke

RUSSIA EXPECTS TO INCREASE ARMS SALES TO IRAN AND TURKEY. A spokesperson
for the Ministry of Foreign Trade revealed on 14 February that Tehran
hopes to purchase $1 billion in military equipment from Russia over the
next two years, and said arms sales to Iran in the next decade could
total $4 billion, Russian and Western agencies reported. The official
said $437 million of military-related goods were sold to Iran in 1994,
accounting for over 85% of all Russian exports there. The United States
reacted negatively to the news that Iran might purchase more Russian
weapons, with State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns expressing
"great concern" about the arms relationship between the two states. On
13 February, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Trade Oleg
Davydov also predicted that Russia might sell NATO member Turkey up to
$300 million in military equipment. -- Doug Clarke and Scott Parrish

GAZPROM ANSWERS ITS CRITICS. Valerii Remizov, deputy chairman of
Gazprom, refuted charges by Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov that the
gas monopoly is a "parasite" on the state, ITAR-TASS reported on 14
February. Remizov claimed that Gazprom, which is still 40% state-owned,
is paying more taxes than other companies and noted its ability to
maintain its output level in recent years, while industrial output as a
whole has fallen by 30%. The company's ability to pay more taxes is
limited by the fact that it is owed 36 trillion rubles ($7.6 billion) by
Russian customers and a further $2.2 billion by CIS customers. Belarus
owes $910 million, and has paid nothing since the beginning of January.
As a result, gas supplies to that country are being cut by 30% from 15
February. -- Peter Rutland

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

NIKOLAEV TOURS THE TRANSCAUCASUS. The head of the Russian Federal Border
Troops, Col.-Gen. Andrei Nikolaev, has toured the Transcaucasus states
in an attempt to drum up support for a proposed common security system
to guard the southern borders of the CIS, with or without the
participation of Azerbaijan, Russian agencies reported. After meeting in
Erevan on 12 February with President Levon Ter-Petrossyan, Nikolaev said
financing of the Russian border troops in Armenia and Georgia had
improved in 1995; he further described Armenian-Russian relations as
harmonious, according to Noyan Tapan. Nikolaev discussed joint control
of the Abkhaz sector of the Russian-Georgian border with Georgian
President Eduard Shevardnadze in Tbilisi on 13 February, Segodnya
reported. The Georgian Parliamentary Press Service subsequently issued a
statement saying that the Georgian parliament would only ratify the
agreement on the status of Russian border troops in Georgia after the
resolution of the Abkhaz conflict and after the Russian State Duma
ratifies the Russian-Georgian Treaty on Friendship and Cooperation,
according to ITAR-TASS. -- Liz Fuller

ABKHAZIA PROPOSES "FEDERAL UNION" WITH GEORGIA. According to Anri
Jergenia, a personal envoy of Abkhaz leader Vladislav Ardzinba, Abkhazia
has proposed the creation of a federal union of Georgia and Abkhazia,
Russian media reported on 13 February. Abkhaz negotiators, who have been
holding consultations with Russian officials in Moscow, submitted the
proposal to Georgian ambassador Vazha Lordkipanidze at a meeting in the
Russian Foreign Ministry. According to Jergenia, the proposed union
would contain elements of both a federation and a confederation.
Hitherto, Abkhazia has rejected Georgian proposals that Abkhazia become
a federal unit within Georgia, favoring a confederation. -- Irakli
Tsereteli

TOKAYEV CONCLUDES CHINA VISIT. At the end of a three-day visit to China,
Kazakhstani Foreign Minister Kasymzhomart Tokayev told ITAR-TASS in
Beijing on 14 February that he shared Russia's concerns about NATO's
eastward expansion. Tokayev and his Chinese hosts agreed to hold the
third session of an intergovernmental commission on economic, trade,
scientific, and technological cooperation in November in Beijing. A
trade panel will meet in October to discuss measures to improve
bilateral trade, which totaled only $390,000 in 1995. -- Bhavna Dave

KYRGYZ MUSLIMS STATE POSITION ON SALMAN RUSHDIE. Seven years after
Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini declared a fatwa or death sentence on
writer Salman Rushdie for his book Satanic Verses, Kyrgyzstan State
Mufti Kimsanbay Abdurakhmanov has vowed that the Muslims of Kyrgyzstan
"are ready to carry out this divine decree against the apostate,"
Reuters reported on 14 February, quoting the Iranian Republic News
Agency (IRNA). Abdurakhmanov said that even if the Ayatollah had not
issued the decree, "the Ulema of Central Asia would have given the same
verdict today." -- Bruce Pannier

[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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