The greatest of faults, I should say, is to be conscious of none. - Thomas Carlyle 1975-1881
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 39, Part I, 23 February 1996


New OMRI Analytical Briefs:
-  "Yeltsin Sacks Officials over Delayed Wage and Pension Payments",
    by Penny Morvant
-  "The IMF:  Savior or Sinner?", by Peter Rutland
-  "Remembering the 1944 Chechen Deportation", by Roger Kangas

Available only via the World Wide Web:
http://www.omri.cz/Publications/Analytical/Index.html

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 CALLS FOR REFORM AT LOWER SOCIAL COST IN STATE OF THE NATION
ADDRESS. President Boris Yeltsin stressed the importance of "developing
the market and bringing down the social cost of this process" in his
annual state of the nation address to the parliament on 23 February,
ITAR-TASS reported. Yeltsin said that economic reforms have passed
through the stages of liberalization and financial stabilization, and
are now entering the third step of stimulating production and
investment, increasing productivity, and a complete structural overhaul
of the Russian economy. He described the economic situation as
"complicated" and said bringing inflation down to less than 25% a year
is necessary to end the crisis. He warned that "we are near a dangerous
limit beyond which exhaustion and discontent may outweigh patience and
hope." In the political sphere, Yeltsin said that his reforms were "the
first in Russia to be realized without repression and the destruction of
political enemies." -- Robert Orttung
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

RUSSIA

YELTSIN CRITICIZES GOVERNMENT. . . Yeltsin declared that the government
had failed to carry out the social tasks spelled out in his last two
addresses. Yeltsin threatened that if the government did not carry out
these tasks, he would replace it. He ordered Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin immediately to prepare a presidential decree to compensate
people who lost their savings due to inflation caused by the
introduction of his reforms. He also called for the establishment of a
public-private foundation to help deceived investors. Yeltsin stressed
increased housing construction, support for small businesses, and the
establishment of an insurance system for deposits in commercial banks.
To combat economic crime, Yeltsin proposed tightening up the procedure
for registering commerical entities and reforming the "unwieldy and
contradictory tax system." He said that the government had failed to
implement reform in the agricultural sector in 1995, leading to the
dismissal of Agriculture Minister Aleksandr Nazarchuk. He blamed
interest groups and a lack of executive discipline for these failures
and called on the parliament to pass a land code to allow the buying and
selling of land. -- Robert Orttung

. . . REJECTS PULLOUT IN CHECHNYA. On Chechnya, Yeltsin said that the
two commissions on resolving the conflict had sent him recommendations
and that a "peaceful resolution would be based on them." In spite of the
ongoing fighting, he described his policy as a set of measures based on
negotiations and strengthening the legitimacy of Chechnya's government.
He rejected negotiations with "bandits" and a withdrawal of troops,
saying that this would lead to war throughout the Caucasus, AFP
reported. He said that Chechnya should have a special status inside the
Russian Federation but did not make clear what this would mean. --
Robert Orttung

CHERNOMYRDIN COMMISSION APPROVES CHECHEN SETTLEMENT BLUEPRINT. The
Russian government commission chaired by Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin that is charged with finding a solution to the ongoing
Chechen conflict approved a draft proposal at a 22 February session that
comprises unspecified political, economic, social, diplomatic, and
military measures to deal with the conflict, ITAR-TASS reported. Details
of the draft are to be ironed out within the next few days. Chechen
Prime Minister Doku Zavgaev, who attended the meeting, said the plan
marks the beginning of "a new stage" in the process of resolving the
crisis; he added that it would be "madness" to attempt to negotiate a
peace settlement with President Dzhokhar Dudaev. Also on 22 February,
Chechen militants blew up the gas pipeline from Chechnya to Dagestan,
according to Ekho Moskvy. Meanwhile, sporadic fighting between Russian
federal troops and Chechen militants continued near the village of
Tsintaroi, Russian TV reported. -- Liz Fuller

YELTSIN TO SUSPEND REGIONAL DISMISSALS. The upper house of the Russian
parliament has asked President Boris Yeltsin to suspend his 21 February
decree that ordered the dismissal of the governors of Arkhangelsk and
Saratov oblasts, Pavel Balakshin and Yurii Belykh, Russian media
reported on 22 February. The governors were sacked for allegedly
misusing federal budget allocations (see OMRI Daily Digest, 22 February
1996), but their deputies say the presidential decree misrepresents the
situation in their regions. The Federation Council also ordered its
legislative committee to consider the constitutionality of the
dismissals. According to the Law on the Status of Deputies, a Council
deputy can only be dismissed with the Council's permission. The two
governors, like most regional executive heads, were appointed directly
by the president. Such regional heads make up one-third of the Council.
The same day, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin said the president's
tough personnel policy will be continued and that "heads will roll,"
Russian and Western agencies reported. -- Anna Paretskaya

GRACHEV SAYS ARMY WILL NOT ALLOW RUSSIA TO DISINTEGRATE. Speaking at a
22 February ceremony on the eve of Defenders of the Fatherland Day,
Defense Minister Pavel Grachev said the military will not allow Russia
to be weakened or divided into a "patchwork of small provinces," ITAR-
TASS reported. Grachev told the assembled officers that despite its
difficulties, the military remains the embodiment of Russian national
dignity and power. Lauding the efforts of the Russian military to
prevent conflict from spreading from various "hot spots" in Russia and
the CIS, the minister expressed hope that the current approach to
financing the military would be altered. Speaking after Grachev, First
Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets called the military a "special
concern" of the government, since it is "the only guarantee of Russian
national security." -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIA CONCERNED ABOUT JAPANESE MARITIME ZONE. Foreign Ministry
Spokesman Grigorii Karasin expressed concern on 22 February over the
publication of maps by Japanese newspapers that include the disputed
southern Kuril islands in a proposed Japanese maritime economic zone.
The Japanese government recently submitted bills to parliament calling
for Japan to ratify the UN Convention on Maritime Law, under which
countries can declare a 200-nautical mile economic exclusion zone around
their coasts. Although Japanese diplomats have said the published maps
are unofficial, Karasin expressed the hope that Japan would "not take
any actions which complicate Russo-Japanese relations" in the process of
ratifying the UN convention. The two countries have a long-running
dispute over the four southernmost Kuril islands, and a fifth round of
talks on fishing rights in the surrounding waters ended on 21 February
without agreement. -- Scott Parrish

ZHIRINOVSKY ENDORSES BUCHANAN. Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir
Zhirinovsky hailed Republican presidential candidate Pat Buchanan's
victory in the New Hampshire primary, Russian and Western agencies
reported on 22 February. In a letter released by his office, the Russian
ultranationalist called Buchanan a "comrade-in-arms" and wished him a
"convincing victory" in the U.S. presidential elections. -- Scott
Parrish

FEDERATION COUNCIL ENDORSES COUNCIL OF EUROPE MEMBERSHIP. As
anticipated, the Federation Council unanimously approved two bills
certifying Russia's adherence to the Council of Europe on 22 February,
Russian and Western agencies reported. The bills must now be signed by
President Yeltsin. The vote clears the way for Russia's formal induction
as the council's 39th member. Council of Europe officials told
journalists the same day that the induction ceremony is currently
scheduled for 28 February in Strasbourg. -- Scott Parrish

MORE ON ALCOHOL PRICE CHANGES. As of 12 March, vodka and other beverages
with a higher than 28% alcohol content cannot be sold to the public for
less than 18,400 rubles ($3.85) a liter, Kommersant-Daily reported on 21
February. The minimum retail and wholesale price for spirits imported
from outside the CIS is 40,000 rubles ($8.37) a liter. The price
increases were mandated by the Economics Ministry on 20 February in an
attempt to protect the Russian market from low-quality alcohol products
(see OMRI Daily Digest, 21 February 1996). Deputy Economics Minister
Sergei Ignatev said the measure should not affect major domestic vodka
makers such as Kristall, which produce good-quality spirits. A
representative of Kristall's Moscow distillery told Komsomolskaya
pravda, however, that the prices of their products would increase by
about 20%. -- Penny Morvant

FEDERATION COUNCIL REJECTS RISE IN MINIMUM WAGE, PENSION. As expected,
the parliament's upper house voted on 22 February to reject draft laws
raising the minimum pension and minimum wage by 20% as of 1 February,
Russian agencies reported. The Federation Council said the country did
not have the resources to implement the bills, which were passed by the
Duma on 7 February (see OMRI Daily Digest, 25 January and 8 February
1996). In the opinion of the council's committees for budget and social
policy, increasing wages "on paper" would serve only to irritate the
public. A conciliation commission is now being set up to revise the
bills. -- Penny Morvant

MIGRATION SERVICE RELEASES 1995 DATA. According to Federal Migration
Service data, 963,000 people migrated to Russia from other CIS republics
in 1995, ITAR-TASS reported on 21 February. The service said overall
migration was slightly lower than in preceding years, but it noted a
rise in in-migration from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Ukraine. The
number of forced migrants also increased by 300,000 during the year, up
almost 20% on the number registered in 1994. In addition, the service
estimated that about 610,000 people have abandoned their homes in
Chechnya, 487,000 of whom were officially registered with the service
last year. More than 200,000 refugees from Chechnya are already said to
have returned to their homes. The Federal Migration Service has 24
permanent centers for resettling forced migrants and has set up an
additional 68 centers in the North Caucasus. -- Penny Morvant

IMF GRANTS RUSSIA $10.2 BILLION LOAN. The managing director of the IMF,
Michel Camdessus, signed a $10.2 billion loan with the Russian
government on 22 February in Moscow, ITAR-TASS reported the same day.
The step, a major boost for President Yeltsin, will pump $4 billion into
the Russian economy this year. The three-year extended fund facility is
conditional upon the government increasing tax receipts and removing
export duties on oil and gas. Lifting export duties will cause a loss of
up to $2.5 billion in government revenue, which will boost the profits
of energy companies and cause domestic oil prices to rise. Prime
Minister Chernomyrdin told ITAR-TASS there will be "compensation
measures" to lessen the impact of the change, "which will not be easy"
to devise. Back in November the government announced it would lift
energy export duties from 1 January 1996, but this was not done. --
Peter Rutland

CONSTRUCTION MINISTER UPBEAT. Construction Minister Yefim Basin told an
international conference in Moscow that 45 million square meters of
housing should be built in 1996, 10% up on 1995, ITAR-TASS reported on
21 February. Only 12% of the expected 10 trillion rubles ($2 billion)
investment will come from the state. He said unfinished projects are
still a problem, amounting to 97 million square meters. The industry has
received $160 million from the U.S. government to build flats for army
officers and is negotiating with the World Bank for loans worth $530
million. -- Peter Rutland

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

TAJIK OPPOSITION LEADER GIVES SPEECH. Forces loyal to the Tajik
opposition are in control of 70% of Tajikistan, United Tajik Opposition
(UTO) leader Said Abdullo Nuri stated in a speech broadcast by the Radio
Voice of Free Tajikistan on 22 February and monitored by the BBC. Nuri
went on to list the areas and the commanders who are in control. Nuri's
claims, if true, would mean that the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, is ringed
by the opposition except for routes leading westward, toward Uzbekistan.
The UTO leader said there are cadres in the southern Kurgan-Tyube area
but declined to provide any details as he claimed "they occupy smaller
territory" and would be easier to locate. -- Bruce Pannier

PRIMAKOV CONCLUDES CENTRAL ASIAN VISIT. Russian Foreign Minister
Yevgenii Primakov met with his Uzbek counterpart, Abdulaziz Komilov, and
Uzbek President Islam Karimov in Tashkent on 22 February to discuss
regional security and sign agreements on migration and the clarification
of Foreign Ministry exchanges, Russian and Western sources reported.
Karimov said good relations with Russia are a "priority for the Uzbek
people," ITAR-TASS reported. He added that the Tajik conflict
underscores the need for further integration and development of the CIS,
a view he shares with Primakov. It is the second time in as many months
that Primakov has visited Central Asia. -- Roger Kangas


[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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