If a man be gracious and courteous to strangers, it shows he is a citizen of the world, and that his heart is no island cut off from other lands, but a continent that joins to them. - Francis Bacon

No. 36, Part I, 20 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 MEETS KOHL. German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, on a three-day
official visit to Russia, met with President Yeltsin in the Kremlin on
19 February, Russian and Western agencies reported. Kohl's visit, the
first by a Western leader since Yeltsin announced that he will seek
reelection, appeared orchestrated to lend support to the unpopular
Russian president. Afterwards, the two leaders announced their full
agreement on all international issues, except NATO expansion. They
minimized their differences, however, describing them as "a matter of
tone," not substance. Kohl assured Yeltsin that no decision about the
expansion of the alliance will be made before the Russian presidential
polls. Kohl also held talks with other top Russian officials, but
declined to meet with any of the other leading Russian presidential
candidates, sparking criticism in Germany that Kohl has tied German
policy too closely to Yeltsin personally. -- Scott Parrish

Anatolii Sobchak believes that President Boris Yeltsin's ability to
enter the second round of the presidential elections is "not
guaranteed," Izvestiya reported 20 February. Sobchak has not decided who
he will support, saying that he cannot support Yeltsin until he sees a
serious attempt to resolve the Chechen conflict. He believes that the
election results will depend on three issues: Chechnya, aid for the 25
million investors who lost their money in fraudulent schemes, and the
decision to lengthen military service from 1.5 to 2 years. Sobchak has
advised Yeltsin to run an energetic campaign based on the premise that
he has "practically no chance" of winning. -- Robert Orttung

society prefer presidential institutions, while nationalist and
patriotic camps prefer parliamentary institutions, concludes a study
released by the Russian Institute of Social and National Problems and
financed by the German Friedrich Ebert Foundation, ITAR-TASS reported 19
February. The study, based on surveys conducted in 14 regions, shows
that individuals often hold democratic views on some issues and
authoritarian positions on others. The researchers found that the
population is most upset about the character of privatization, price
increases, and the absence of government control over entrepreneurial
activity. It also found evidence contradicting the stereotypical views
that Russians reject the idea of a market economy and do not wish to
live in an economically-stratified society. The recent sharp increase in
support for authoritarian measures is attributed to fears about rising
crime, embarrassment over the country's current crisis, and feelings of
impotence in changing the situation. -- Robert Orttung

presidential Chief of Staff Nikolai Yegorov proclaimed that the
institution of the presidential representatives in the federation
subjects should be further developed to provide co-operation of power
institutions at all levels, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 February. He also
said that presidential representatives should be assigned to the key
ministries. The institution of the presidential representatives in the
regions and republics was introduced along with post of regional head of
administration (governor) in August 1991. Presidential envoys in regions
were supposed to serve as the "eyes and ears" of the presidential
apparatus, but failed to secure much influence. Now, in addition to
regional envoys, the president has his representatives in the
Constitutional Court and both houses of the parliament. -- Anna

Yegorov, who continues to head the advisory Presidential Council on
Cossacks Affairs, said that President Boris Yeltsin will decide soon
whether to replace elected Cossack Atamans with direct presidential
appointment, Izvestiya reported on 20 February. The proposal, which will
now undergo juridical review together with other draft bills on Cossacks
affairs, proposes that all heads of Cossack units, except the lowest
level leaders, would be appointed by the president after consultations
with the Cossack units themselves. -- Anna Paretskaya

RUSSIAN MUSLIM LEADER RESIGNS. The General Secretary of the Union of
Muslims of Russia, Mikhail Bibarsov, has announced his resignation from
the organization, Russian media reported on 19 February. Bibarsov said
that he disagreed with other Union leaders' decision adopted by the
Union's Council on 10 February to support President Boris Yeltsin re-
election bid if he stops the war in Chechnya. He added that he and his
supporters intend to set up a new Muslim organization and hold its
constituent congress in March. According to Bibarsov, the idea of a new
organization has been supported by the leaders of Tatarstan and
Bashkortostan. Consultations with the pro-government bloc Our Home Is
Russia, Yabloko movement, and the Communist Party are also underway. --
Anna Paretskaya

DUMA BEGINS HEARINGS ON START II. On 19 February, a special Duma
commission heard expert testimony from military and foreign ministry
officials on the START II arms control agreement, Russian and Western
agencies reported. The commission, consisting of representatives from
the Defense, International Affairs, Security, and Geopolitics
committees, will submit a report on the treaty to the full Duma before
it votes on ratification. NTV reported that military officers at the
session expressed unease about ratifying the treaty in the face of the
possible NATO expansion. Western agencies also quoted military officials
as estimating that implementation would cost Russia 35 trillion rubles
($7.45 billion). International Affairs Committee Chair Vladimir Lukin
(Yabloko) later said that American development of missile defenses could
torpedo ratification, although he still expressed support for the
agreement. -- Scott Parrish

ITALIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN MOSCOW. Italian Foreign Minister Susanna
Agnelli met with her Russian counterpart Yevgenii Primakov in Moscow on
19 February, Russian and Western agencies reported. As Italy currently
holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, the two diplomats
discussed European security, NATO expansion, and the Yugoslav settlement
in addition to bilateral issues. Afterwards Primakov told Russian TV
that Russia and Italy shared a "common interest" in creating a new pan-
European security system. Agnelli later met with First Deputy Prime
Minister Viktor Kadannikov to discuss Russo-Italian economic ties,
including bilateral tax and investment protection agreements. The
Italian diplomat subsequently announced that Italy will unfreeze the
remaining 210 billion lira ($132 million) of a credit line provided for
by a 1992 bilateral agreement, which has been blocked since 1993. --
Scott Parrish

station, Mir, whose first unit was launched on 20 February 1986,
celebrates its 10th anniversary, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 February. The
Mir station was originally intended to last only 3 years, and has hosted
33 Russian and 13 foreign astronauts. In 1995 the Mir station earned 350
billion rubles ($74 million) from international flights. The 1996 space
budget is 1.5 trillion rubles ($315 milion). Russia's space research is
struggling in the face of budgetary cutbacks. The head of the Russian
Space Agency, Yurii Koptev, said that the state owed the space program
437 billion rubles ($92 million). He welcomed a decision by the Gore-
Chernomyrdin commission to extend Mir's operation until 1999, despite
the projected launch of the cargo unit of the international Alfa station
in 1997. -- Natalia Gurushina

head of the European Union mission in Moscow, British diplomat Michael
Emerson, has resigned from the European Commission in Brussels amid
accusations that he used his position in Moscow to further his own
business interests, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 February. The previous day
the news agency said Emerson had denied the corruption allegations but
admitted that he set up a private consulting firm that operated in
Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Kyrgyzstan. Emerson ended his five-year
stint in Moscow with the EU on 30 December 1995. -- Penny Morvant

NICKEL MINERS BEGIN HUNGER STRIKE. More than 150 nickel miners employed
by the Norilsk Nickel Combine at its Komsomol pit announced a hunger
strike on 19 February, ITAR-TASS reported. The miners, who are still
waiting for their November paychecks, have been on strike since 13
February. Miners at the Taimyr pit are threatening to join their
colleagues if wages are not paid within five days. Norilsk Nickel is one
of the companies at the center of the controversy over the 1995 loans-
for-shares auctions (see OMRI Daily Digest, 7 February 1995). -- Penny

Metallurgical Combine General Director Nikolai Fomin hired a private
security company to occupy the offices of his successor, Yevgenii
Braunshtein, at the metalworks in Novokuznetsk, Russian media reported.
Fomin's armed guards occupied the building for 30 hours on 16-17
February before being replaced without incident by local police after
the company's board of directors reaffirmed its support for Braunshtein.
Fomin said he was acting on a raion court ruling which stated that his
dismissal by the company's board last year was unlawful, ITAR-TASS
reported. According to Russian TV, Fomin was backed by the management of
the Novokuznetsk Aluminum Works, which owns shares in the Kuznetsk metal
plant. On 19 February, Kemerovo Oblast Governor Mikhail Kislyuk
recommended that the Kuznetsk works, Russia's main producer of railroad,
tram, and metro rails, be renationalized, an initiative supported by the
board. -- Penny Morvant

FINANCE MINISTRY REPORTS ON 1995. On 19 February Finance Minister
Vladimir Panskov delivered a report to a ministry meeting on his
agency's performance in 1995, NTV reported. Tight monetary policy
brought about a reduction in inflation and stabilization of the ruble,
which rose 70% in real terms against the dollar during 1995. However,
Panskov admited that balancing the budget had been achieved by carrying
over 4 trillion rubles ($840 million) of spending into 1996. He said
targets were exceeded because of additional spending on Chechnya,
pensions, and gold purchases, while income was reduced by import tariff
waivers. -- Peter Rutland


Foreign Minister Tofik Gasymov, who has been in pre-trial detention
since September, 1995 pending charges of state treason, has been
transferred from prison to hospital, Turan reported on 19 February.
Gasymov, a leading member of the Musavat party, was in perfect health
before his arrest, but is now reported to be unable to take food. -- Liz

Kyrgyzstan's biggest savings bank, Kyrgyzelbank, on 19 February will hit
about two million savers, or almost half the country's 4.2 million
inhabitants, Western media reported on 20 February. The Central Bank of
Kyrgyzstan said it was taking away the bank's license due to insolvency.
Banking sources blamed the collapse on the bank's inability to honor the
high rates of interest it offered. --Bhavna Dave

three days of negotiations under the direction of international
observers, the anti-government opposition in the Tavil Dara region has
handed over the bodies of 47 soldiers killed in the recent fighting,
western sources reported on 19 February. Since the fighting began on 31
January, the government states that 92 soldiers have been killed,
although the opposition puts the figure into the hundreds. Heavy snow
and bad weather have hampered the transfer of additional bodies, and
have temporarily halted fighting in the region. As the problems in Tavil
Dara and Garm continue, the foreign ministers of Uzbekistan and Russia
have called for a more active mediation process to the conflict. --
Roger Kangas

TURKMENISTAN CENSUS UPDATE. Despite out-migration, Turkmenistan's
continues to demonstrate a higher than average rate of natural increase.
The population has increased from 3.6 million in 1990 to 4.5 million in
1995, Reuters reported on 19 February, citing the official Turkmen press
agency. Ethnic Turkmen now constitute 77% of the population --up 5% from
1989. The percentage of ethnic Uzbeks remained stable at 9.2%, while
that of ethnic Russians diminished from 9.5% to 6.7%. The rural
population to 2.5 million, compared to 2 million urban dwellers. --
Lowell Bezanis

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Roger Kangas

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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