The only certainty is that nothing is certain. - Pliny the Elder
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 45, Part I, 04 March 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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
GRACHEV READY TO MEET WITH DUDAEV. While touring military installations
in Rostov Oblast, Defense Minister Pavel Grachev on 2 March declared
himself willing to meet with Chechen separatist President Dzhokhar
Dudaev, NTV reported. Grachev, scheduled to arrive in Grozny on 4 March,
said that "if Dudaev wants to meet with me, I will do so." He reiterated
that any peace settlement must be predicated on Chechnya remaining
within the Russian Federation--a condition Dudaev has consistently
rejected. NTV described Grachev's remarks as "sensational," since
Russian officials, including Grachev himself, have repeatedly refused to
meet with Dudaev. Russian analysts speculated that Grachev's remarks
reflect President Yeltsin's desire to find a resolution to the Chechen
conflict before the June presidential election. -- Scott Parrish
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

RUSSIA

FIGHTING INTENSIFIES IN CHECHNYA. Federal forces and separatist fighters
clashed repeatedly in Chechnya on 13 March, as federal forces continued
to shell Bamut, near the border with Ingushetiya, Russian media
reported. Military spokesmen say 500 fighters are holed up there in the
underground bunkers of a former Soviet missile base. On 1 March,
fighters attacked federal positions in central Grozny, while on 2 March
they staged a raid against federal forces headquarters in Khankala,
outside Grozny. Also on 2 March, the Baku-Stavropol natural gas pipeline
was blown up near the village of Sholkovskaya. A similar explosion,
blamed on separatist fighters, cut the pipeline on 22 February. On 3
March, intense fighting broke out in Sernovodsk, 45 km west of Grozny,
when Chechen fighters ambushed federal troops who had entered the town
to search for arms caches. RFE/RL reported continued fighting there on 4
March. -- Scott Parrish
YELTSIN SUPPORTERS HOLD CONFERENCE. President Boris Yeltsin's campaign
machine moved into high gear on 2 March when 900 delegates from 37
political parties and movements attended a conference in Moscow to
support the president, Russian media reported. Conference speakers
including former presidential chief of staff Sergei Filatov portrayed
Yeltsin as the only alternative to the bad old days under the
Communists. Sergei Belyaev, head of the Our Home Is Russia Duma faction,
said attempts to create a "third force" that is neither pro-government
nor pro-communist (see OMRI Daily Digest, 29 February 1996) were
misguided and based on "illusions." He said society is divided into two
camps--that is, for and against a return to communism, Russian TV
reported. -- Laura Belin

GORBACHEV TO RUN FOR PRESIDENCY. Former Soviet President Mikhail
Gorbachev announced that he will run for president this year because
Russians deserve a "real alternative" to both Yeltsin and Communist
Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov, Russian and Western media reported on 1
March. He called on all "democratically-minded leaders" to choose a
common presidential candidate, adding that if such a coalition nominated
somebody else, he would bow out of the race, according to ITAR-TASS. In
recent opinion polls only 1-2% of respondents said they would consider
voting for Gorbachev. Nevertheless, Gorbachev's campaign has already
collected 700,000 signatures supporting his candidacy, NTV reported. --
Laura Belin

DEADLINE EXPIRES FOR REGISTERING INITIATIVE GROUPS. Thirty-eight
initiative groups nominating presidential candidates submitted their
documents to the Central Electoral Commission (TsIK) on 2 March, the
last day before the deadline expired, Russian Public Television (ORT)
reported, citing TsIK secretary Aleksandr Veshnyakov. The commission has
already registered 59 groups nominating a total of 49 candidates (10 of
the groups support Yeltsin, two support Aleksandr Lebed). However, no
more than a dozen presidential hopefuls are likely to win a spot on the
ballot, since most candidates will fail to collect the necessary 1
million signatures by 16 April. -- Laura Belin

YELTSIN CHANGES RULES ON REGIONAL ELECTIONS. . . President Yeltsin on 2
March issued a decree allowing regional legislative bodies to set the
date for regional elections on their own, ITAR-TASS reported. The
electoral terms for all of Russia's regional legislatures expire in
1996. In a September decree, Yeltsin fixed December 1996 as the date for
all regional elections. -- Anna Paretskaya

. . .DISCUSSES LISTEV INVESTIGATION WITH SKURATOV. A year after the
murder of TV journalist Vladislav Listev, President Yeltsin met with
Procurator-General Yurii Skura-tov to discuss the case, Segodnya and
Rossiiskie vesti reported on 2 March. Although Listev's killing remains
unsolved, Skuratov denied that the investigation, which has been widely
criticized, has reached a dead-end. -- Penny Morvant

ANTI-FASCIST YOUTH MOVEMENT HOLDS CONFERENCE. Russia's Democratic Choice
leader Yegor Gaidar told an anti-fascist youth conference that the
country's Communist Party has evolved into a national-socialist rather
than a social-democratic party, and that if it wins the elections it
could pose a danger to world peace, NTV and Russian TV reported. The
conference, held in Moscow on 3 March, was attended by about 60
representatives of the movement Youth Action against Fascism (AMD) from
17 regions. AMD Chairman Petr Kaznacheev said Russia's democratic youth
are seeking to establish a "white" anti-communist and anti-fascist belt
throughout Russia to counterbalance Russia's "red belt." -- Penny
Morvant

NUMBER OF CIVIL SERVANTS INCREASING. The number of civil servants in
federal and regional bodies rose by 6% in 1995 in comparison with the
previous year, Radio Rossii reported on 3 March citing the State
Statistics Committee. There are now more than 1 million civil servants,
excluding administrative personnel in the Defense Ministry, law
enforcement organs, and Customs Service. The sharpest increase last year
was in the number of apparatchiks in legislative bodies--up 23%. Labor
Minister Gennadii Melikyan said last September that the government
intended to reduce the number of civil servants. -- Penny Morvant

NORWEGIAN FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS MOSCOW. Norwegian Foreign Minister
Bjoern Tor Godal held talks in Moscow on 2 March with his Russian
counterpart, Yevgenii Prima-kov, Russian and Western agencies reported.
During their discussion, Primakov reiterated Russian objections to any
eastward expansion of NATO. Primakov also described the recent NATO
exercises in northern Norway as "nothing unusual," despite earlier
Russian protests (see OMRI Daily Digest, 28 February 1995). Primakov
announced that President Yeltsin will visit Norway later this month. A
visit to Norway scheduled for July 1995 was postponed when Yeltsin was
hospitalized with heart problems. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIAN MILITARY LACKS FOOD AND MONEY. The armed forces were allocated
500 billion rubles ($104 million) for food for January but so far have
received only 100 billion rubles, Novaya gazeta reported on 28 February.
The current budget allocates only 8,735 Rubles ($1.80) per day to feed
each soldier. According to a military spokesman, the army has not
received 9 million uniforms it ordered and soldiers stationed in
Chechnya have been forced to wear sneakers and winter hats donated by
Menatep bank. -- Constantine Dmitriev

RUSSIA TO BUILD NEW SPACE LAUNCH SITE. President Yeltsin has approved
the creation of Russia's third space launch site near Svobodnyi in the
Far East, Western agencies reported on 1 March. Russia has been leasing
the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan for $115 million a year for manned
flights, but cannot reach agreement with the Kazakhstani government over
the upkeep of the facility. Russia's two other cosmodromes--at Plesetsk
in northwestern Russia and Kapustin Yar near Volgograd--are used only
for launching satellites. The first lift-off from Svobodnyi is expected
by the end of 1996. However, experts warn that by stretching its
financial resources, Russia may be unable to fulfill some of its
international obligations under the "Mir" program. -- Natalia Gurushina

DRUG ADDICTION INCREASING. Vladimir Yegorov, director of the Russian
Center for the Study of Drug Addiction, said on 1 March that at least
half a million Russians are dependent on illegal drugs and that the
number of drug users could be as high as 1.5 million, ITAR-TASS reported
on 1 March. Owing in part to Russia's porous borders, a wide range of
drugs are now available, but Yegorov said that only the well-off can
afford to buy imported drugs such as heroin and cocaine. He said he
hoped treatment for drug addiction will improve after the construction
of five rehabilitation centers envisaged in a federal program passed
last year. -- Penny Morvant

IMPORT TARIFF HIKE. . . Finance Minister Vladimir Panskov said on 29
February that import tariffs will be raised by 20%, increasing the
average tariff to 17-18%, Segodnya reported. The step, mainly intended
to raise revenue, drew criticism from an EU spokesman, who pointed out
that Russia did not consult the EU before announcing the move, Reuters
reported on 2 March. Such consultation is required under the terms of
the EU interim trade agreement with Russia, which came into effect on 1
February. The EU claims that the average tariff they charge on Russian
imports is 1%. On 27 February, an EU delegation arrived in Moscow to
discuss Russia's threat to introduce quotas to correct the two-to-one
imbalance in the textile trade with the EU, ITAR-TASS reported. The
Russian customs service announced on 1 March that limits for duty-free
import of personal purchases will be lowered from $2,000 to $1,000,
above which they will be taxed at 5 ECU per kg. -- Peter Rutland

. . .ZAVERYUKHA REACTION. Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Zaveryukha
said that tariffs will not be enough to protect Russian farmers from
foreign imports, and that quotas are needed, ITAR-TASS reported on 1
March. Zaveryukha claimed that farm subsidies in the U.S. amount to $341
per hectare, in Germany $800, and in Russia only $35, so Russia cannot
hope to compete in terms of price. He stated that Russian farms have
only 40% of the fuel and 70% of the machinery they need for the spring
sowing, according to Delovoi mir on 2 March, and made the customary call
for state-subsidized credits for farm suppliers. -- Peter Rutland

INFLATION AT ALL-TIME LOW. Consumer price inflation in February was a
mere 2.8%, the lowest level since 1991, Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin told Russian Public TV (ORT) on 1 March. Inflation was 4.1%
in January and 3.2% in December. However, the same day, Russia's two
largest oil companies, LUKoil and Yukos, said they would increase their
domestic prices by up to 25%. Even assuming the February inflation
figure is reliable, it is unlikely that monthly inflation will fall
below 2% later this year, as government spokesmen insist. -- Peter
Rutland

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

OSCE CHAIRMAN MEETS AZER-BAIJANI LEADER, DISCUSSES NAGORNO-KARABAKH.
Swiss Foreign Minister Flavio Cotti, in his capacity as OSCE chairman,
arrived in Baku on 2 March to discuss the prospects for a resolution to
the Nagorno-Karabakh issue, Russian and Western sources reported. After
the meeting, Cotti stressed that the "principle of the territorial
integrity of Azerbaijan" is critical to any negotiation, adding that
"autonomy for Nagorno-Karabakh" can be established within such a design,
Turan reported on 3 March. During his stay in the region, Cotti also
hopes to persuade Karabakh officials to release 64 Azer-baijani
prisoners of war, who should have been released under the two-year-old
ceasefire, RFE/RL reported. -- Roger Kangas

IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS AZERBAIJAN, GEORGIA. Iranian Foreign
Minister Ali Akbar Velayati arrived in Baku on 2 March to attend the
opening of an Iranian trade fair and to meet with Azerbaijani President
Heidar Aliev, Turan and international media reported. Velayati said
Iran's economic relations with Azerbaijan are improving. He attended the
inauguration of the Mashhad-Serakhs-Tedzhen railway, and called for the
construction of another railway via the border town of Astara. On 3
March, Velayati arrived in Tbilisi to meet his Georgian counterpart,
Irakli Menagharishvili, and President Eduard Shevardnadze, to the
discuss the latter's peace initiative for the Caucasus, Russian media
reported. -- Irakli Tsereteli

AZERBAIJANI PARLIAMENTARY OFFICIAL MURDERED. The body of Ruhangiz
Muhtarova, a senior adviser on the parliamentary Ecology and Natural
Resources Commission, was found in her flat on 28 February with several
stab wounds, Turan reported on 1 March. Sources in the Interior Ministry
said the murderers have been found but gave no further details. --
Irakli Tsereteli

TAJIKISTAN ROUNDUP. The government accused opposition forces of breaking
the ceasefire in Tavil Dara on 2 March and presidential spokesman Zafar
Saidov said the government would take "preventive measures," Russian and
Western media reported. In an interview with RFE/RL, opposition leader
Ali Akbar Turajonzoda denied the reports, saying the government is
trying to find an excuse to launch an attack. On 4 March, the Russian
Federal Border Service director, General Andrei Nikolaev, arrived in
Dushanbe to discuss strengthening border control cooperation, a topic of
last week's border services meeting in Brest, Belarus, ITAR-TASS
reported (see OMRI Daily Digest, 1 March 1996). -- Roger Kangas

[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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