To live is so startling, it leaves little time for anything else. - Emily Dickinson
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 49, Part I, 08 March 1996


New OMRI Analytical Briefs:
-  "On the U.S. State Department's Annual Report on Human Rights",
   by Alaina Lemon

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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
FIGHTING CONTINUES IN GROZNY. Fighting between Chechen militants and
Russian federal troops continued at various locations throughout  Grozny
on 7 March. Russian media offered contradictory assessments of the
situation, quoting Russian Interior Ministry sources as claiming that by
evening the situation had "somewhat stabilized" and a representative of
the Russian military as estimating that the militants controlled one
third of the city. Estimates of both military and civilian casualties
are similarly inconsistent, but number in the hundreds. Meeting in
Moscow on 7 March, the Russian Security Council agreed on the broad
outline of a plan for regulating the Chechen conflict. Questioned by
NTV, President Boris Yeltsin declined to disclose details but promised
to do so in a special TV appearance in late March. -- Liz Fuller
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

RUSSIA

YABLOKO PUSHING NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE. Grigorii Yavlinskii's Yabloko
faction is once again calling for the State Duma to hold a vote of no
confidence in the government following the latest outbreak of fighting
in Grozny, Radio Rossii reported on 7 March. A statement issued by
Yabloko deputies noted that while the president and prime minister claim
publicly to be searching for a peaceful end to the Chechen conflict,
Russian forces are carrying out large-scale military operations in the
republic. -- Laura Belin

YELTSIN CONGRATULATES WOMEN. . . President Boris Yeltsin told a Kremlin
reception on 6 March that the future of Russia is in women's hands,
Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. In his speech--in honor of
International Women's Day (8 March)--Yeltsin stressed the role of women
in bringing up children and said that policies to improve the lot of
children are a top priority. The position of many children in Russia has
deteriorated since the collapse of communism, because of falling living
standards and an increase in the number of broken homes and domestic
violence. -- Penny Morvant

. . .WOMEN EARN LESS. Women make up 87% of employed Russian urban
residents with a personal income of less than 100,000 rubles ($21) a
month, according to the findings of a poll by the Public Opinion Fund
released on the eve of International Women's Day. The higher the income
bracket, the lower the proportion of women. ITAR-TASS said that women
constitute 71% of those with earnings between 200,000 and 400,000
rubles; 57% of those earning 400,000 to 600,000 rubles; 45% of those
with incomes between 600,000 and 1 million; 38% of those earning from 1
to 1.5 million; and only 32% of those earning more than 1.5 million. The
8,869 people surveyed by the poll all have a higher or secondary
specialized education. -- Penny Morvant

CONSTITUTIONAL COURT PROTECTS JUDGES. The Constitutional Court has ruled
that judges' immunity from criminal prosecution is an exception to the
general principle that all citizens are equal before the law, ITAR-TASS
and NTV reported on 7 March. Immunity for judges is "not a personal
privilege," but "a guarantee of judicial independence," the ruling said.
However, complaints against judges can be heard by boards of judicial
experts; according to NTV, last year 54 judges accused of misconduct
were stripped of their posts by councils of their peers. -- Laura Belin

NEMTSOV REJECTS GAIDAR'S PROPOSAL TO RUN FOR PRESIDENCY. Nizhnii
Novgorod Governor Boris Nemtsov has said he will not run for president,
NTV and Russian Public TV (ORT) reported on 7 March. Russia's Democratic
Choice leader Yegor Gaidar said that Nemtsov was the only democratic
candidate who could offer a viable challenge to the Communists.
Meanwhile, Nemtsov has proposed that limits be placed on presidential
authority to mitigate the effect of a Communist victory in the election,
NTV reported on 7 March. Nemtsov said the Communist deputies in the Duma
should support his proposal since the Communist Party itself says that
it wants to eliminate the presidency. -- Anna Paretskaya

YELTSIN APPOINTS NEW GOVERNORS. On 7 March, President Yeltsin appointed
Oleg Savchenko, his representative in Kaluga Oblast, to the post of the
oblast head of administration, ITAR-TASS reported. Earlier this week,
Yeltsin appointed Anatolii Yefremov, deputy head of the Arkhangelsk
Oblast administration, to the post of oblast governor. The previous
Kaluga governor resigned in January due to a government reshuffle
following the Communist victory in the Duma elections; the former
Arkhangelsk administration head was fired in February, along with some
other regional leaders, for their alleged misuse of budget funds. --
Anna Paretskaya

IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS MOSCOW. Iranian Foreign Minister Ali
Akbar Velayati met in Moscow with his Russian counterpart, Yevgenii
Primakov, and President Yeltsin on 7 March, international media
reported. After discussing the Tajik and Nagorno-Karabakh conflicts,
Primakov declared that Russia and Iran share a mutual interest in the
"stability of frontier regions." Primakov defended Velayati's denial
that Iran had any links with the recent suicide bombings in Israel,
while Velayati added that Iran opposes any expansion of NATO. Yeltsin
later urged Velayati to use Iran's influence to combat international
terrorism, but backtracking from earlier comments that Chechen fighters
are trained in Iran, he "positively assessed" Iran's position on the
Chechen conflict. -- Scott Parrish

DID RUSSIA CONDUCT A NUCLEAR TEST? U.S. officials on 7 March offered
varying assessments of allegations published in the The Washington Times
that Russia conducted a nuclear test in mid-January. The paper, citing
anonymous sources at the U.S. Defense Department, said Russia detonated
a small nuclear device at its Novaya Zemlya test site, breaking a
moratorium on nuclear tests observed since 1992. State Department
spokesman Nicholas Burns denied that Russia had conducted a nuclear
test, saying "we believe the moratorium continues." Defense Secretary
William Perry, however, told a Congressional hearing that "some
evidence" suggests that a test may have taken place. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIA BLASTS NATO EXPANSION PLANS AT DISARMAMENT CONFERENCE. Ambassador
Grigorii Berdennikov, head of the Russian delegation to the 38-nation UN
Conference on Disarmament, declared that plans for the eastward
expansion of NATO "poison the entire international climate," Russian and
Western agencies reported on 7 March. Speaking at a Geneva meeting of
the conference, which is negotiating a Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban
Treaty (CTBT), he also condemned proposals by Republican members of the
U.S. Congress that the U.S. withdraw from the 1972 ABM Treaty. While
Berdennikov said Russia hopes to conclude a CTBT agreement in 1996, his
comments suggest that Russia intends to link NATO expansion with arms
control issues. -- Scott Parrish

NUCLEAR PLANTS POSE "UNACCEPTABLE" RISK. Senior Russian ecologist
Aleksei Yablokov said on 6 March that Russia's nuclear plants pose an
"unacceptable risk" and that massive investment is required to bring
safety standards up to those in the West, Reuters reported. Yablokov,
who heads the Security Council's ecological safety commission, said
several NGOs had joined forces to lobby for glasnost in the nuclear
industry. An international nuclear safety summit, to be attended by
President Yeltsin and G-7 leaders, will take place in Moscow on 19
April, a week before the 10th anniversary of the Chornobyl nuclear
catastrophe. Environmental groups such as Yablokov's Center for Russian
Environment Policy and Norway's Bellona Foundation will hold their own
meeting on the eve of the summit. They will focus on secrecy in the
nuclear sphere and the aftermath of Chornobyl. -- Penny Morvant

YELTSIN SIGNS ANTI-TERRORIST DECREE. President Yeltsin  signed a decree
on strengthening anti-terrorist measures on 7 March, Russian media
reported. The decree orders government agencies to formulate a federal
law on anti-terrorism in two months, and instructs the Foreign
Intelligence Service to uncover the international connections of Russian
terrorist groups. The decree also urges the mass media to show restraint
when covering terrorist acts and anti-terrorist operations. --
Constantine Dmitriev

ANTI-TERRORIST EXERCISES DISRUPT LIFE IN PERM. An anti-terrorist drill
in the Urals city of Perm confused the local authorities, police, and
media, Russian and Western agencies reported on 7 March. Five Federal
Security Service (FSB) officers, impersonating terrorists, seized a
local oil-refinery and took the staff hostage. They said the building
was mined, demanded a $2 million ransom, and threatened to begin killing
hostages. The local police forces, who were not informed that the
building was "mined," stormed the building. Meanwhile, four other FSB
officers in civilian clothes armed with Kalashnikov rifles crossed the
city by tram and seized the oblast administration building. Perm Deputy
Governor Valerii Shchukin, a former FSB colonel, said that he plans to
hold similar drills every three months. -- Constantine Dmitriev

NEW PRESIDENTIAL DECREE ON LAND OWNERSHIP. President Yeltsin signed a
new decree "On the constitutional rights of the citizen to land" on 7
March, Radio Rossii reported. The decree aims to clarify the property
rights of the more than 40 million citizens who have land plots and 12
million rural workers who have been given land shares. Progress in land
reform is a condition of IMF lending, but the new Land Code has been
held up in parliament for more than a year by Communist and Agrarian
deputies who oppose private land ownership. The decree, which only
applies to land allocated before 1991, forbids local authorities from
levying lease payments or forcing land holders to buy out their plot. It
is not clear to what extent plot owners are free to sell their land to
new owners. -- Peter Rutland

ALEKSASHENKO DENOUNCES "ZERO" AGREEMENT WITH BELARUS. Central Bank First
Deputy Chairman Sergei Aleksashenko denounced the writing off of mutual
debts between Russia and Belarus, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 March. The
"zero" agreement, under which Russia waived the $910 million it was owed
for gas supplies, was signed by the presidents of the two countries on
27 February. Aleksashenko said Gazprom has not been compensated for its
lost revenues, which may limit its ability to pay taxes. Aleksashenko
also stated that national import tariffs may not in fact be raised,
despite last week's announcement of a 20% increase. Also on 7 March,
Gazprom signed an agreement with the Moldovan government on the
repayment of the latter's $380 million debt, ITAR-TASS reported. --
Natalia Gurushina

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

AFGHAN PRESIDENT VISITS TAJIKISTAN. Afghan President Burhanaddin Rabbani
arrived in Dushanbe on 7 March to discuss with Tajik President Imomali
Rakhmonov the situation on their common border, Russian Public TV (ORT)
reported the same day. The Tajik-Afghan border region has been the scene
of clashes between CIS border guards and forces of the Tajik opposition
who are based in Afghanistan since the 1992 civil war in Tajikistan. The
border is also one of the first transit points for narcotics being
smuggled from the area to markets in Europe and the U.S. The presidents
also discussed the repatriation of some 8,000-10,000 Tajik refugees
still in Afghanistan. -- Bruce Pannier

OSCE AND U.S. DELEGATIONS IN UZBEKISTAN. An OSCE mission under Audrey
Glover and a U.S. delegation headed by James Collins are visiting
Tashkent, Russian, and Western media reported on 6 and 7 March. The OSCE
delegation met with Uzbek Human Rights Commissioner Shavkat Urazayev,
Justice Minister Sirajuddin Mirsafayev, and representatives of the court
system and Foreign Ministry to discuss human rights violations and drug
control policies. The Collins mission met with Prime Minister Utkir
Sultanov to discuss the implementation of military conversion strategies
in Uzbekistan. Uzbek TV reported that the U.S. visit is proof that
Uzbek-U.S relations "have great potential for long-term development." --
Roger Kangas

PROTESTS IN EAST KAZAKHSTAN OVER NUCLEAR TESTS COMPENSATION. Pensioners
in the city of Ust-Kamenogorsk in East Kazakhstan Oblast staged a mass
protest demanding the immediate payment of pensions and compensation for
those who suffered from the effects of Soviet nuclear tests conducted in
the neighboring test-site of Semipalatinsk, Kazakhstani TV reported on 5
March. Similar protests over the non-payment of pensions last November
resulted in the replacement of the oblast head (see OMRI Daily Digest, 4
December 1995). -- Bhavna Dave

WAGE ARREARS IN KAZAKHSTAN AMOUNT TO HALF A BILLION DOLLARS. State
enterprises in Kazakhstan owe about $485 million to their employees as
wage arrears and the figure is steadily rising, Kaztag reported on 7
March. Kazakhstani First Deputy Prime Minister Nigmatzhan Isingarin said
that about 70% of the debt-ridden enterprises have not paid their
employees for at least three months. . Wage arrears have led to numerous
strikes by miners and other workers in recent months. A two-week-old
hunger strike by 28 miners who had not been paid for 15 months by a
mining enterprises in Southern Kazakhstan ended last month when a Swiss
company, the mining enterprise's foreign partner, offered to pay. --
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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