One must learn by doing the thing; though you think you know it, you have no certainty until you try. - Sophocles
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 34, Part I, 16 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 FIRES HEAD OF CHANNEL 2. President Boris Yeltsin sacked Oleg
Poptsov as chairman of Russian TV, which broadcasts nationwide on
Channel 2, Russian and Western media reported on 15 February. He
appointed Eduard Sagalaev, currently head of the TV-6 network, to
replace Poptsov. Russian commentators warned that Yeltsin is tightening
control over the media as he begins his reelection campaign. Although
fully state-owned, Russian TV's news coverage is less consistently pro-
presidential than 51% state-owned Russian Public TV (ORT), which
broadcasts on Channel 1. Speaking in Yekaterinburg, Yeltsin said ORT
presents the news "normally," while Channel 2 "lies." Poptsov, who was
chairman of Russian TV since its creation in July 1990, first claimed
that he was under pressure to resign because of his network's Chechnya
coverage in January 1995. In a 15 February interview with Russian TV,
Poptsov said he still supported Yeltsin's reelection bid. -- Laura Belin
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

RUSSIA

REACTION TO YELTSIN RE-ELECTION ANNOUNCEMENT. While President Boris
Yeltsin portrayed himself in Yekaterinburg as the only alternative to a
return of "the red wheel of communism," Yegor Gaidar and Sergei Kovalev
insisted Yeltsin's candidacy will only help the Communists, Russian
media reported on 15 February. However, Forward, Russia! leader Boris
Fedorov said he will back Yeltsin if Russia's democrats cannot agree on
a different candidate, according to Ekspress-khronika. Prime Minister
Viktor Chernomyrdin repeated that he has no presidential aspirations.
Former chief of staff Sergei Filatov, now one of the president's top
campaign organizers, told NTV he is setting up an nationwide pro-Yeltsin
association, which will publish its own newspaper during the campaign.
Meanwhile, Yeltsin's wife Naina told RIA-Novosti that she is still
concerned about her husband's health, although she described his current
condition as "normal." -- Laura Belin

YELTSIN PLEDGES ACTION ON WAGE ARREARS. Speaking in Yekaterinburg on 15
February, Yeltsin promised that "from March on, there will be no problem
with wage arrears." He castigated directors who pay themselves 30
million rubles ($6,300) a month, "while at the same time the working
class do not get their wages for two months." Wage arrears are tied to
the problems of tax arrears and inter-enterprise debt, which now stand
at approximately 13.4 trillion, 30 trillion and 50 trillion rubles,
respectively. The first meeting of the new government commission on
payments arrears, chaired by First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir
Kadannikov, met on 14 February, Kommersant-Daily reported the next day.
Kadannikov said he is searching for a "macroeconomic" solution, while
his predecessor Anatolii Chubais targeted individual debtor firms. --
Peter Rutland

BACKGROUND ON NEW HEAD OF RUSSIAN TV. Eduard Sagalaev's appointment as
chairman of Russian TV marks an about-face for a television pioneer who
has spent the last few years developing a private network. During the
Gorbachev era, Sagalaev helped create the groundbreaking Ostankino
programs "Vzglyad" (Viewpoint) and "Dvenadtsatyi etazh" (The Twelfth
Floor). He formed a partnership with American media magnate Ted Turner
in 1992 and founded the independent Moscow city channel TV-6 the
following year. TV-6 reaches about 70 million viewers in European
Russia, but does not yet produce its own news programs. In August 1995,
Sagalaev was chosen to lead the new National Association of Television
Broadcasters, which was founded to advance the independent media and
push for the privatization of broadcasting facilities. Sagalaev also
heads the Confederation of Journalists' Unions. -- Laura Belin

MOST RUSSIANS PREFER LOCAL MEDIA. More than half of Russians watch only
local television and read only local or regional newspapers, according
to recent poll by the All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion
(VCIOM) reported by ITAR-TASS on 15 February. VCIOM director Yurii
Levada said the study proves that Russia "cannot be equated with
Moscow," since the independence of the regions is increasing. -- Laura
Belin

FORMER TOP PROCURATOR UNDER INVESTIGATION. Keen to show that he is
cracking down on corruption, President Yeltsin said on 15 February that
criminal charges have been brought against Aleksei Ilyushenko, acting
procurator-general from February 1994 to October 1995, Russian and
Western agencies reported. Ilyushenko has been accused of abuse of
office and bribe-taking. Criminal proceeding have also been instituted
against a former governor of Vologda Oblast and Yevgenii Bychkov,
chairman of the Russian Committee on Precious Metals, who is a key
figure in talks with South Africa's diamond giant De Beers. Yeltsin said
that 1,200 senior officials have been convicted since he signed decrees
on combating corruption. -- Penny Morvant

DUMA PASSES BILL ON DETENTION OF SUSPECTS. The Duma passed a bill in the
first reading on 14 February reducing the period in which suspects can
be held in custody without indictment to 10 days, the BBC reported
citing Interfax. At present, under a June 1994 presidential decree on
measures to combat organized crime, suspects can be held for 30 days
before charges are brought. That decree has been severely criticized for
contravening the constitution and violating human rights. -- Penny
Morvant

RUSSIA'S MUSLIMS DISCUSS WAR IN CHECHNYA . . . The Union of Muslims of
Russia has proposed that the leaders of all the country's Muslim regions
convoke a meeting to discuss the settlement of the conflict in Chechnya,
Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 15 February. Dudaev representative Aslan
Maskhadov is expected to attend the meeting. The union's leaders
stressed that the meeting is aimed at persuading President Yeltsin to
find a peaceful solution to the conflict, adding that if the war
continues, they will call on Russia's 20 million Muslims to vote against
Yeltsin in the presidential election. -- Anna Paretskaya

. . . TATARSTAN PRESIDENT HAS PLAN TO END THE CONFLICT. Mintimer
Shaimiev, the president of Tatarstan, has his own ideas on how to end
the war in Chechnya, Izvestiya reported on 16 February. Shaimiev
proposed all-party negotiations, the establishment of an international
monitoring group, and the introduction of an amnesty for all involved,
including Dudaev. He also advocated holding new elections in Chechnya,
in which Dudaev would be allowed to participate. -- Anna Paretskaya

RUSSIAN IFOR COMMANDER DISMISSED. Maj.-Gen. Nikolai Statskov, commander
of the Russian contingent in the NATO-led Bosnian peace implementation
force (IFOR), has been recalled to Moscow, NTV reported on 15 February.
Statskov, deputy commander of Russia's Airborne Forces, was criticized
last December for meeting with Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic, an
indicted war criminal (see OMRI Daily Digest, 27 December 1995). NTV
speculated that Statskov was dismissed at the request of NATO Commander
General George Joulwan, who recently visited Moscow. The station
defended Statskov's decision to meet with Mladic, however, saying it had
allowed the Russian peacekeeping brigade to be successfully deployed in
Serb-held territory. The commander of the Airborne Forces, Col.-Gen.
Yevgenii Podkolzin, later denied that Statskov's recall had political
significance, attributing it to the normal rotation of personnel. --
Scott Parrish

PRIMAKOV CALLS FOR SUSPENSION OF SANCTIONS AGAINST BOSNIAN SERBS.
Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov called on 15 February for the
international Contact Group on the former Yugoslavia to discuss
suspending UN economic sanctions against the Bosnian Serbs, Russian and
Western agencies reported. In a phone conversation with his U.S.
counterpart Warren Christopher, Primakov described the suspension of the
sanctions as "important and urgent" and insisted that "all obstacles" to
this measure have now been removed. Russia and the U.S. disagree over
whether the Bosnian Serbs have met the conditions specified in the
Dayton Accords for suspension of the sanctions, blocking action on the
issue by the UN Security Council (see OMRI Daily Digest, 13 February
1996) . The issue will likely be addressed at the Rome summit on Bosnia,
now scheduled for 17-18 February. -- Scott Parrish

DEFENSE MINISTRY BUDGET. Defense Minister Pavel Grachev said his
ministry asked for 71 trillion rubles ($15 billion) for 1996, but was
only granted 41 trillion ($8.6 billion), Russian Television reported on
15 February. He was speaking to a meeting of Defense Ministry civilian
trade unions near Moscow. He added that 15 trillion of this year's
spending will go to paying off 1995 debts. Meanwhile, the residents of
the village Bolshoi Kamen in Primorsk Krai dismantled two old diesel
submarines and sold them for scrap, in order to pay the local garrison's
wages, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 February. -- Peter Rutland

GROMOV: CASUALTIES IN CHECHNYA WORSE THAN AFGHANISTAN. Col.-Gen. Boris
Gromov, former commander of the Soviet 40th Army in Afghanistan, told a
14 February Moscow news conference that the Russian army has suffered
more serious losses in Chechnya than the Soviet army did in Afghanistan.
Gromov was clearly referring to the casualty rate, not total losses. He
said 13,833 servicemen had been killed and some 50,000 wounded during
the involvement in Afghanistan. The worst year was 1984, when 2,227
soldiers were killed. According to Gromov, the Russian army suffered
losses similar to the 1984 death toll in the first four months of 1995.
Gromov contended that Defense Minister Grachev failed to take account of
the "Afghan lessons" when planning operations in Chechnya, blaming the
mistake on "Grachev's loyalty to one person rather than the army." --
Doug Clarke

RUSSIA AND FRANCE SIGN ECONOMIC ACCORDS. French Prime Minister Alain
Juppe and his Russian counterpart Viktor Chernomyrdin signed five
economic agreements following the first meeting of a Franco-Russian
Economic Commission on 15 February, ITAR-TASS reported. The deals
included a $500 million line of credit for the oil industry, and $300
million for aerospace, agribusiness, and other projects. Juppe later
said France supports Russia's pending application for a $9 billion IMF
extended facility loan. He also endorsed transforming the G-7 into the
G-8 by admitting Russia, a change Russian leaders have long advocated.
In 1995, Franco-Russian trade totaled only $2.4 billion, or 2% of
Russian foreign trade. -- Scott Parrish and Natalia Gurushina

URGENT NEED FOR LAND CODE. Nikolai Komov, the head of the Russian
Committee on Land Allocation and Use, argued that a Land Code is
urgently needed to codify land holdings and enable taxes and revenue to
be raised from landholders. Passage of a land code has been blocked in
the Duma by opponents of private land ownership. Speaking on Radio Mayak
on 15 February, Komov suggested that 13 trillion rubles ($2.7 billion) a
year could be raised by taxing the nation's 55 million individual and
400,000 enterprise landholders. Meanwhile, several citizens are
appealing to the Constitutional Court over the Moscow city tax on non-
resident apartment owners. Under a September 1994 local law, Russians
who buy a Moscow flat must pay a tax of 500 times the monthly minimum
wage (about $6,000), and foreigners 5,000 times (about $60,000) per
apartment, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 15 February. -- Peter Rutland

TAX REVENUES BELOW TARGET. Vladimir Gusev, the head of the Tax
Inspectorate, said that the federal budget raised only 15 trillion
rubles ($3.2 billion) per month in 1995 instead of the planned 20
trillion, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 February. Only 14 trillion were
gathered in January 1996, yet the tax target for 1996 is 246 trillion
rubles, 60% higher than 1995. Gusev said that a "legal vacuum" means
that 1 trillion rubles of tax money owed by firms is tied up in
commercial banks. In related news, Finansovye izvestiya reported on 16
February that on 31 January all federal and municipal agencies have been
ordered to switch their accounts from commercial banks to the Central
Bank or Savings Bank (Sberbank), unless the latter authorize another
bank to act as their agent. -- Peter Rutland

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

ECONOMIC DECLINE IN TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA. Finansovye
izvestiya, citing the CIS Intergovernmental Statistics Committee,
reported on 15 February that in 1995 Azerbaijan's GDP declined by 17.2%,
Tajikistan's by 12.4%, Kazakhstan's by 8.9%, and Kyrgyzstan's by 6.2%.
The continuing deterioration of Azerbaijan's economy is probably
connected with the war in Chechnya, as a result of which Russia closed
the border between Azerbaijan and Dagestan. -- Lowell Bezanis

ONE DAY OF PEACE IN TAVIL-DARA. Government and opposition forces agreed
to cease hostilities on 15 February in order to hand over the bodies of
government troops killed there since fighting broke out on 31 January,
Reuters reported. A joint team from the UN and the International Red
Cross monitored the delivery of 92 bodies. Western sources estimate that
the actual number of dead on the government side is several times
higher, but heavy snow is hampering the search for casualties in Tavil-
Dara. -- Bruce Pannier

MINERS IN SOUTHERN KAZAKHSTAN CONTINUE HUNGER STRIKE. The wives and
mothers of the 25 miners who are on an indefinite hunger strike in the
mining town of Kentau in southern Kazakhstan have threatened to join the
coal workers if the 15-month wage arrears are not paid immediately, a
representative of the Independent Trade Union of Kazakhstan told Western
media on 16 February. He added that electricity and hot water supplies
have been cut off for months in most of the miners' houses. As yet, the
Kazakhstani government has taken no steps to meet the miners' demands.
-- Bhavna Dave

PROBLEMS BETWEEN BISHKEK AND ANKARA. According to Zaman on 15 February,
relations between Turkey and Kyrgyzstan are under strain after Turkey
froze $40 million in Eximbank credits to Bishkek. Other bilateral
problems noted include the failure of Kyrgyzstan (and other Central
Asian states) to contribute to the establishment of a joint Turkish-
Central Asian Bank and to send 100 experts for training in Turkey.
Articles treating problems between what Ankara terms "brother republics"
are rare in the Turkish press; Zaman is probably sounding the alarm bell
in the hope that Ankara will take steps to keep Bishkek happy. -- Lowell
Bezanis

[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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