Fear of life in one form or another is the great thing to exorcise. - William James

No. 38, Part I, 22 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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
IMF CHIEF ARRIVES IN MOSCOW. On 21 February the managing director of the
IMF, Michel Camdessus, arrived in Moscow for talks on a new three year
$9 billion Extended Fund Facility loan to Russia. He told Izvestiya of
21 February that "we are close to the final point," in signing the deal.
The IMF is still trying to persuade Russia to lift export duties on oil,
currently 20 ECU ($25.60) a ton, although the government is unlikely to
budge on this issue. Western financial markets assume that the loan is a
done deal and have already discounted the loan's formal announcement. --
Peter Rutland


presidential campaign, Gennadii Zyuganov, told a group of supporters
that his Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) does not stand
for abolishing the institution of the presidency, but only for
"redistributing" the balance of power between the legislative and
executive branches, ITAR-TASS reported on 21 February. The KPRF platform
for parliamentary elections, adopted at an August 1995 party conference,
called for eventually amending the constitution to abolish the
presidency but using the post during the "transitional period" to alter
the course of reforms. -- Laura Belin

passed in the first reading a draft law on public control over elections
and referendums, which outlines the rights of election observers and
would allow for ordinary citizens, not just representatives of political
parties and organizations, to monitor polling stations and ballot
counts, NTV reported on 21 February. Yabloko deputy Viktor Sheinis, one
of the bill's authors, told ITAR-TASS that it would increase public
confidence in election results. A similar measure was rejected 11 times
by the last Duma. Also on 21 February, the Duma adopted a resolution "on
the unsatisfactory financing of education and sciences" by a vote of 320
to one, ITAR-TASS reported. The resolution faults the government for not
fulfilling the budget, the law on education, and a presidential decree
on developing education in Russia. -- Laura Belin

YELTSIN MEETS WITH MEDIA LEADERS. At a meeting with mass media heads,
President Boris Yeltsin denied rumors of a possible postponement of the
upcoming presidential election. Russian media reported on 21 February
that Yeltsin is confident of winning, possibly in the first round,
noting that about 7 million signatures have been collected in support of
his candidacy. Despite Yeltsin's intention to hold meetings with pro-
reform parties leaders to unite the democratic forces before the
election and the involvement of former first Vice-Premier Anatolii
Chubais in Yeltsin's election campaign, Yeltsin announced that he would
run as a non-partisan candidate since for him "all voters are equal."
Addressing the journalists, Yeltsin stressed the importance of
objectively covering the election campaign while at the same time
affirming his belief in the constitutional right of freedom of speech.
-- Anna Paretskaya

ORT TO TAKE ON NTV'S "ITOGI." The NTV weekly current events program
"Itogi" (Results), one of Russia's most influential news shows, will
have new competition on Sunday nights from Russian Public TV (ORT),
ITAR-TASS reported on 21 February. The television journalist and Duma
deputy Aleksandr Nevzorov will be the main consultant for the new
program, which will replace ORT's relatively unsuccessful "Voskresenie"
(Sunday) on 3 March. Nevzorov's controversial ORT news magazine "Dikoe
Pole" (Wild Field) will be taken off the air for "at least several
months" while he works on this new project. In October, the Presidential
Chamber on Information Disputes recommended that "Dikoe Pole" be
canceled after a show filmed in a women's prison was found to have
violated the prisoners' privacy rights (see OMRI Daily Digest, 20
October 1995). Laura Belin

Duma passed a bill, 304-18, endorsing membership in the Council of
Europe, Russian and Western agencies reported. The measure now goes to
the Federation Council, where its rapid approval is expected. In a
speech urging deputies to approve the bill, First Deputy Foreign
Minister Igor Ivanov said joining the council is in Russia's national
interest, adding that membership would allow Russia to better defend the
interests of ethnic Russians living abroad, especially in the Baltic
states. Duma International Affairs Committee Chair Vladimir Lukin
assured his colleagues that the benefits of council membership would
more than justify the up to $25 million annual dues which Russia will be
obligated to contribute to the organization. Russia is scheduled to
become the 39th member of the council at a 27-28 February ceremony in
Strasbourg. -- Scott Parrish

appointed Vice-Admiral Viktor Kravchenko as commander of the Black Sea
Fleet, ITAR-TASS reported on 22 February. Kravchenko replaces Admiral
Eduard Baltin, who was sacked earlier this month (see OMRI Daily Digest,
2 February 1996). Kravchenko, 52, a submariner, has years of experience
in the Black Sea Fleet. He served in a series of posts there following
his graduation in 1968 from the Frunze Naval College, eventually rising
to become the fleet's Deputy Chief of Staff. After attending the General
Staff Academy, Kravchenko became First Deputy Commander of the Baltic
Fleet in 1990, a post he held until his current appointment. -- Scott

YELTSIN SACKS SENIOR OFFICIALS. In an attempt to improve his standing
with voters ahead of the June elections, President Yeltsin issued
decrees on 21 February ordering the dismissal of several federal and
regional officials for misusing federal budget allocations and causing
delays in the payment of wages and pensions, Russian and Western
agencies reported. The regional bosses sacked are Arkhangelsk Oblast
Governor Pavel Balakshin, Saratov Oblast Governor Yurii Belykh, and the
presidential envoy in Saratov Vladimir Golovachev. Presidential
economics advisor Aleksandr Livshits said Yeltsin also ordered the
dismissal of senior treasury official Aleksandr Smirnov and federal
postal chief Vyacheslav Polyakov, noting that about half of Russia's
post offices have misused money from the Pension Fund. Yeltsin also
reprimanded Gazprom head Rem Vyakherev and Integrated Energy System
chief Anatolii Dyakov for poor control over wage payments and proposed
that they sack some regional representatives. Wage arrears, now
totalling over 20 trillion rubles, have provoked strikes and angered
voters. Yeltsin also signed a decree retiring Yevgenii Bychkov, the head
of the Russian Federation Committee for Precious Metals and Stones
(Roskomdragmet), who is under criminal investigation for embezzlement,
ITAR-TASS reported. Bychkov has been linked to deals that siphoned off
uncut gems worth millions of dollars, but he has denied any wrongdoing.
-- Penny Morvant

the Duma overrode a Yeltsin veto of a law tying food prices to farm
input prices and introducing guaranteed prices for farmers, ITAR-TASS
reported. The Federation Council had already approved the law,
originally passed by the Duma in October. Also yesterday, the Duma
passed another law on VAT, formerly vetoed by Yeltsin. The new version
removes a VAT waiver for imports of foreign machinery. -- Peter Rutland

CONGRESS OF SMALL BUSINESSES MEETS. Addressing the first Russian
congress of small businesses in Moscow on 19 February, President Boris
Yeltsin said "Market relations have taken root in Russian soil and are
developing dynamically," and that "Small businesses mean the creation of
a powerful middle class, without which there can be no stability," the
BBC reported the next day. There were 900,000 small businesses in Russia
in 1995 (200,000 of them in Moscow), a 5% increase over 1994, ITAR-TASS
reported on 20 February. They employed 14 million people (2 million in
Moscow) and accounted for 9% of the country's GDP. However, delegates
complained of high taxes and bureaucratic barriers. A $300 million
credit line was opened last year by the European Bank for Reconstruction
and Development. However, only 15% of small businesses were able to get
credits from banks or state funds in 1995. -- Natalia Gurushina


RUSSIA AND AZERBAIJAN An agreement on economic, scientific-technical and
cultural cooperation between the Kalmyk Republic and Azerbaijan was
signed, Turan reported on 21 February. The agreement is identical to one
reached last week between Azerbaijan and Astrakhan oblast, another
subject of the Russian Federation, the report noted. Meanwhile, on 19
February Radio Baku reported that railway traffic between Russia and
Azerbaijan has been partially restored. Last December, Azerbaijan
requested that Russia lift the restrictions it imposed on the movement
of people and goods the previous year which, according to Azerbaijani
officials, has resulted in the republic losing some $250 million dollars
in trade. -- Lowell Bezanis

TURKEY AND GEORGIA. Turkish President Suleyman Demirel has offered his
assistance in settling the Abkhaz conflict, ITAR-TASS reported on 20
February citing Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze's press service.
The day before, Shevardnadze praised Demirel for his support of
Georgia's territorial integrity in his weekly radio address. Meanwhile,
Iberia news agency reported that Turkey has agreed to finance the
construction of an oil pipeline to transport "early-oil" from Baku to
the Georgian port of Supsa. A final decision on the need for the
estimated 926 km long pipeline, and its financing, is to be taken by the
Azerbaijan International Operating Company (AIOC) next week, according
to the Turkish press. -- Lowell Bezanis

both the Russian and Uzbek governments to address the issue of ethnic
Russians living in Uzbekistan, that population still continues to leave
the country. According to Rossiiskaya gazeta on 22 February, the Russian
Embassy in Tashkent issues an average of 130-150 citizenship
certificates a day, totaling more than 170,000 over the past several
years. This figure represents a minority of the estimated 500,000 who
have left Uzbekistan for Russia. The article noted that in addition to
Russians, Koreans, Jews, Germans, Bashkirs, and Tatars are also
emigrating. In contrast, about 20 people leave Russia for Uzbekistan
each month to become citizens there. -- Roger Kangas

travel to Mecca for this year's hajj are to receive government
assistance, Uzbek television reported on 19 February, as cited by the
BBC. According to a government decree, the Uzbek Muslim Board, in
conjunction with the government's Committee for Religious Affairs, will
organize a pilgrimage from Tashkent to the Muslim holy city. In
addition, government ministries will assist in foreign currency
acquisition, health care certification, and the processing of all
necessary paperwork. Uzbekistan Hawo Yollari (Uzbekistan Airlines) will
provide transportation. In recent years, thousands of Uzbeks have taken
part in the pilgrimage, in stark contrast to the several dozen a year
permitted during the Soviet era. -- Roger Kangas

PRIMAKOV CONCLUDES VISIT TO KAZAKHSTAN. Concluding his one day visit to
Almaty, the Russian foreign minister Yevgenii Primakov assured
Kazakhstan that Russia wants a voluntary CIS integration and not a
return to the USSR, Russian media reported on 21 February. Primakov
denied the existence of any major bilateral disagreements between the
countries, though admitted that differences remain over the status of
Caspian and sharing of its resources. Primakov told Russian Public TV
(ORT) that Kazakhstan is most likely to backtrack on its earlier
decision to withdraw its contingent from the CIS peacekeeping forces in
Tajikistan--Russia wants to extend the mandate of the CIS peacekeeping
forces. Both countries agreed to hold joint talks with China on the
border issue in April. Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev
announced that President Yeltsin will visit Kazakhstan either before or
after these talks. --Bhavna Dave

KAZAKHSTANI-HUNGARIAN COOPERATION. The visiting Hungarian president
Arpad Goencz, and a Hungarian trade delegation headed by the industry
and trade minister Imre Dunai held talks with the Kazakhstani deputy
prime minister Akmetzhan Yesimov on 20 February, according to an MTI
report monitored by the BBC. It added that Kazakhstan is seeking
Hungary's involvement in projects to develop the country's railways,
health care, and housing and energy sector. Yesimov and Dunai signed a
protocol on intergovernmental trade agreements. They also discussed the
possibility of Kazakhstan supplying gas to Hungary in exchange for
Hungarian involvement in building the Yambrg gas pipeline and the Tengiz
oil refinery. --Bhavna Dave

[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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