If we are to live together in peace, we must first come to know each other better. - Lyndon B. Johnson
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 43, Part I, 29 February 1996


New OMRI Analytical Briefs:
-  "Tirana Bomb Blast Leads to Crackdown on Independent Media",
   by Fabian Schmidt
-  "Serbian President's Crackdown Includes Humanitarian Group", by
   Stan Markotich
-  "Czechs Free Up Crown's Exchange Rate", by Steve Kettle

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 UNION WITH BELARUS. After a 28 February Kremlin
meeting with his Belarusian counterpart, Alyaksandr Lukashenka,
President Yeltsin said that deeper Russo-Belarusian integration is aimed
at eventually reach the "goal" of "unity" between the two states,
Russian and Western agencies reported. Without defining unity, Yeltsin
described this goal as "achievable" during his presidency. Lukashenka
agreed, and subsequently told journalists that in March a major
agreement would be signed accelerating the integration of the two states
and creating a supra-national organization with a jointly funded budget
to oversee military cooperation and work on overcoming the consequences
of the Chornobyl disaster. Later on 28 February, Lukashenka departed for
a two-day tour of oil and gas producing enterprises in Tyumen Oblast. --
Scott Parrish
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

RUSSIA

REACTION TO LUKASHENKA VISIT. Under the deal signed on 28 February,
Russia will cancel $470 million in outstanding state credits and in
return Belarus will waive their $300 million claim on Russia. Russian
commentators observed that Yeltsin used Lukashenka's visit to bolster
his re-election campaign, casting himself as the champion of
reintegration among the former Soviet republics. Russian TV reported
that Yeltsin and Luka-shenka's agreement on the goal of "unity" would
deprive the Russian president's communist and nationalist opponents of
"one of their main trump cards...the promise to restore the USSR."
Izvestiya warned on 28 February that "only the blind" could fail to see
that the "cause of integration" is being used as "a bargaining chip in
the presidential campaign," a charge Segodnya bolstered by questioning
the economic wisdom of integration with Belarus. -- Scott Parrish

LEFT-CENTER POLITICIANS CREATE "THIRD FORCE." A group of Duma members
including Aleksandr Lebed, Svyatoslav Fedorov, Stanislav Govorukhin, and
other politicians, including Sergei Glazev, Konstantin Zatulin, and Oleg
Rumyantsev, have agreed to create a coalition called "Third Force" that
will support neither Yeltsin nor Zyuganov in the presidential campaign,
Segodnya reported on 28 February. The new group is expected to back
Lebed or Fedorov as its candidate. The absence of the Congress of
Russian Communities' Yurii Skokov suggests that the fissures in that
party are growing more serious. -- Robert Orttung

YELTSIN TELLS DEMOCRATS THAT HE IS THEIR ONLY CHOICE. President Boris
Yeltsin said on 28 February that pro-reform activists and voters "have
no other choice but to support me" since "there is nobody else," Russian
and Western agencies reported. He said that his support will grow as the
elections approach, an assertion borne out by the latest VCIOM polls
which show him closing in on Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov, with
27% to Zyuganov's 39% in a one-on-one race. However, Konstantin
Borovoi's Party of Economic Freedom announced that it would support
Yabloko's Grigorii Yavlinskii in the presidential campaign, ITAR-TASS
reported. -- Robert Orttung

MUSCOVITES BACK LUZHKOV. One hundred well-known Muscovites have signed a
letter published in Obshchaya gazeta on 29 February endorsing the re-
election of Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov. Among the signatories were Duma
deputies Irina Khakamada and Svyatoslav Fedorov, former Russian TV head
Oleg Poptsov, and actors Aleksei Batalov and Oleg Yefremov. According to
the latest opinion polls, an overwhelming majority of Muscovites want
Luzhkov to run for re-election and 70% of respondents said they would
not want Luzhkov to leave his post, even to run for the presidency.
Moscow's mayoral elections will take place on 16 June along with the
presidential poll. -- Anna Paretskaya

ST. PETERSBURG LEGISLATURE EXPANDS ITS POWERS. The St. Petersburg
Legislative Assembly passed a bill on 28 February that considerably
extends the powers of the city's legislative institutions, ITAR-TASS
reported. According to the bill, two-thirds of the legislature's
deputies can pass a vote of no confidence in any executive official of
the city, including head of local administration and the Constitutional
Court will have the power to resolve any conflicts between the city's
executive and legislative bodies. The law also introduces the post of a
city governor to replace that of mayor and sets gubernatorial elections
for 16 June. The new law must now be approved by the current Mayor
Anatolii Sobchak. -- Anna Paretskaya

RUSSIA JOINS COUNCIL OF EUROPE. At a Strasbourg ceremony on 28 February,
Russia officially became the 39th member of the Council of Europe,
Russian and Western agencies reported. Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii
Primakov handed council Secretary-General Daniel Tarschys documents
affirming Russian adherence to the council charter. Primakov then signed
the European Human Rights Convention, a convention outlawing torture, a
charter on local self-government, and a convention to protect
minorities. Primakov said Russia's acceptance into the council showed
that Europe believes it will continue with democratic reform. Russian
human rights advocate Sergei Kovalev urged the council to carefully
monitor Russian compliance with the obligations of council membership,
especially in Chechnya. Otherwise, he said, "nothing good will come" of
Russian membership. -- Scott Parrish

YELTSIN CHIDES U.S. OVER CUBAN PLANE INCIDENT. President Yeltsin told
journalists on 28 February that he was "concerned" by the recent
incident in which a Cuban fighter shot down two U.S. civilian aircraft,
Russian agencies reported. Yeltsin praised the UN Security Council--
which adopted a resolution with softer wording than that requested by
the U.S.--for "diplomatically telling the U.S. that it cannot declare
war over every such incident." The council's resolution "deplored" the
incident, and called for an investigation by the International Civil
Aviation Organization but did not impose any sanctions against Cuba.
Yeltsin added that Russia is "re-establishing" its ties with Cuba, which
broke down after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Last week, Russian
Nuclear Power Minister Viktor Mikhailov visited Cuba to discuss the
possible completion of the unfinished Juragua nuclear plant, which the
U.S. opposes, citing safety concerns. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIAN ARMS COMPANIES GET GREEN LIGHT. Five major Russian military
companies have been granted the right to sign export deals
independently, AFP reported on 28 February. According to a spokesman for
the state-owned export firm Ros-vooruzhenie, the firms Rosvertol
(helicopters), Antei (anti-aircraft systems), Gipromash (hydraulic
systems), Ufim plant (jet engines), and the Tula instrument design
bureau (anti-tank weapons) can now sign deals without intermediation by
Rosvooruz-henie. Since 1994, only Rosvooruzhenie and MIG-MAPO aircraft
company have been allowed to sign independent deals with foreign
clients. Podgrebenkov said Ros-vooruzhenie regards these companies "as
colleagues, not competitors." He added that other Russian companies may
soon be granted similar privileges. -- Constantine Dmitriev

WAGE DEBT CONTINUES TO GROW. By 20 February, the total Russian wage debt
had grown to 23.7 trillion rubles ($4.9 billion) from 20.4 trillion a
month earlier, Trud reported on 28 February. The largest debt is in the
engineering sector (3.75 trillion rubles), followed by education (1.87
trillion), the coal industry (1.28 trillion), and health (1.22
trillion). President Yeltsin has repeatedly promised to resolve the wage
arrears crisis, but presidential economics adviser Aleksandr Livshits
was forced to acknowledge on 28 February that the situation remains
difficult, Ekho Moskvy reported. Officials in public and private firms
who delay wage payments are being threatened with criminal prosecution.
-- Penny Morvant

ANTI-CORRUPTION CAMPAIGN CONTINUES. Citing a source in the Presidential
Security Service, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 February that $3 million
worth of jewels bought with embezzled funds had been confiscated at
Sheremetevo Airport in Moscow in a case of high-level corruption. The
report did not name the accused but said that the investigation, which
began a year ago, is under the jurisdiction of the Presidential Security
Service and the main military procurator, suggesting that the suspects
are from the military or the KGB. Meanwhile, Deputy Finance Minister
Anatolii Golovaty, who was responsible for overseeing Ros-komdragmet,
has tendered his resignation over charges that senior committee
officials robbed the state of more than $170 million. -- Penny Morvant

STRIKES INCREASING. Strikes occurred at 2,108 enterprises and
organizations in Russia in January, the BBC reported, citing Interfax.
Labor Ministry official Valentin Tinyakov said all but 31 of the strikes
were in the education sector. In 1995, a total of 8,856 strikes were
recorded, up from 514 in 1994, according to Goskomstat. Unpaid wages
were the main grievance. The number of hunger strikes has also increased
dramatically in recent months, indicating the degree of despair felt by
employees in a number of sectors, including education, health, mining,
and law enforcement. At present, guards are on hunger strike at a penal
colony in Kareliya, the second such protest by Interior Ministry
officials in the republic this year. -- Penny Morvant

BUDGET DEFICIT WIDENS. In a 29 February speech to the government on
economic policy, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin reaffirmed his
commitment "to use basic market instruments for managing the economy,"
even while trying to reduce the social costs of reform, ITAR-TASS
reported. However, he identified low tax revenues as a major problem.
Budget income in the first two months was 15 trillion rubles ($3.1
billion), only 33% of the planned level, while spending was 33 trillion
rubles, 70% of the planned level, according to Segodnya of 28 February.
The gap was plugged in part by the sale of 7.5 trillion rubles worth of
treasury bonds. First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Kadannikov
presented a similar gloomy prognosis in an interview with ITAR-TASS on
28 February, in which he said they expect tax receipts of 22 trillion
rubles in March but plan to spend 32 trillion rubles. -- Peter Rutland

COAL INDUSTRY SUBSIDIES. The Russian coal industry should receive 10.4
trillion rubles ($2.2 billion) in subsidies this year, about 1% of GDP.
This includes 7.4 trillion rubles from the budget, a $500 million loan
from the World Bank, and $100 million credit from British and German
equipment suppliers, Russian TV reported on 27 February. It is expected
that pit closures will mean the firing of 100,000 of Russia's 800,000
miners this year. Yurii Malyshev, the head of the monopoly state company
Rosugol, complained that the World Bank loan is aimed at closing pits
rather than investing in new capacity, in an interview with the New York
Times of 29 February. -- Peter Rutland

RUSSIA RUNS TRADE SURPLUS WITH U.S. In 1995, Russia ran a $1,209 million
trade surplus with the U.S., exporting $4,035 million and importing
$2,826 million, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 February. This was up from a
surplus of $667 million in 1994. The U.S. ran a surplus of $109 million
with the remaining CIS countries in 1995 (down from $381 million in
1994), with imports of $875 million and exports of $984 million. --
Peter Rutland

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

GEORGIAN PARLIAMENTARY OPPOSITION CRITICIZES LATEST BILLS. The
parliamentary faction of the opposition Georgian National Democratic
Party lambasted the hasty passage of new bills on land privatization,
the budget, and commercial banks, Russian media reported on 27 February.
According to the party's political secretary, Mamuka Giorgadze, the
bills were not properly prepared. Parliament rejected a proposal by the
National Democrats that the bills be re-drafted. The IMF had set the
passage of these bills as a condition for the release of its $240
million Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility (ESAF) loan to Georgia.
-- Irakli Tsereteli

OPPOSITION TURNS DOWN TAJIK GOVERNMENT INVITATION. A spokesman for the
United Tajik Opposition (UTO), Ali Akbar Tura-jonzoda, said the UTO will
not send any representatives to an 11 March session of the Tajik
parliament, according to a Radio Voice of Free Tajikistan broadcast
monitored by the BBC. The parliament had offered the opposition an
opportunity to address the session, which would also have been attended
by Ramiro Piriz Ballon, the UN special envoy to Tajikistan, and
representatives of observer states to the Tajik peace talks. Turajonzoda
claimed that "the Dushanbe regime will not be able to ensure either
their own security or that of the guests that parliament has invited to
take part in the session." -- Bruce Pannier

WOLVES THREATEN HUMANS IN NORTHWESTERN KAZAKHSTAN. The Kazakhstani
government has set aside 3 million tenge ($46,000) to organize special
brigades of hunters and offer bounties to deal with an increasing number
of attacks on humans by a growing wolf population, Kaztag reported on 28
February. An Almaty zoologist reported that the number of wolves in the
country has grown to 60,000 since the government stopped paying bounties
a few years ago. A region in Eastern Kazakhstan pays a bounty of about
$74 per wolf. -- Bhavna Dave
[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez

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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