Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born. - Anaiis Nin
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 50, Part I, 11 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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
CHECHEN MILITANTS RETREAT FROM GROZNY. After five days of bitter
fighting throughout Grozny, Russian media reported on 11 March that
Chechen forces loyal to President Dzhokhar Dudaev had split into small
groups and retreated to the outskirts of the city where fighting was
continuing, but that the city center was "quiet." Casualties on both
sides run into the hundreds. Oil storage tanks at the Lenin oil refinery
are reportedly ablaze and electricity and water supplies have been
disrupted. Meanwhile, on 8 March Russian federal troops succeeded in
retaking the border village of Sernovodsk, and the local population is
beginning to return to their homes. -- Liz Fuller
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

RUSSIA

SOSKOVETS OUTLINES YELTSIN CAMPAIGN THEMES. Imbuing economic reform with
greater social support, strengthening Russian statehood, and fighting
crime will be the main themes of President Boris Yeltsin's re-election
platform, First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets, the head of the
coordinating council for the campaign, said 9 March. To counter the
"opposition's baseless criticism of everything the government does," the
president will try to explain to Russians how the government's actions
promote stability, he said. The government is taking measures to promote
domestic production and resolve the enormous wage arrears problem while
still trying to secure financial stabilization, Soskovets told ITAR-
TASS. -- Robert Orttung

POLITICIANS WOO FEMALE VOTERS. President Boris Yeltsin courted Russia's
female voters on 8 March, extolling women as the source of goodness,
love, and peace in a televised speech to mark International Women's Day.
His rival for the presidency, Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov,
bestowed flowers and champagne on women reporters and spoke about his
home life at a news conference on 7 March. Hard-line communists decried
the effect of reform on women at a small rally in Moscow on 8 March,
Russian and Western agencies reported. Working Russia leader Viktor
Anpilov contended that only Soviet power can return respect and equality
to women, who he claimed have been turned into "slaves" by the current
regime. He went on to urge voters in the capital to back Olga Sergeeva
of the Russian Communist Workers' Party in the city's mayoral elections
on 16 June. -- Penny Morvant

NIZHNII NOVGOROD GOVERNOR CONFIDENT OF COMMUNIST VICTORY. Nizhnii
Novgorod Governor Boris Nemtsov said that he believes a Communist
candidate will win the June presidential elections due to the pro-reform
parties' failure to rally around a single candidate, NTV and Russian
Public TV (ORT) reported on 10 March. Nemtsov added that he does not
think a Communist victory would be a catastrophe, saying the country's
independent media and political opposition and the influence of Western
countries will be stabilizing factors. Last week, Nemtsov said he would
not run for the presidency and proposed that limits be imposed on
presidential powers (see OMRI Daily Digest, 8 March 1996). -- Anna
Paretskaya

ABSENCE OF REGIONAL POLITICS DESTABILIZES RUSSIA. The absence of a state
regional policy in Russia is one of the most destabilizing factors in
the country, according to experts from the Center of Research on
Federalism. Historically, regional policy consisted of agreements
between the central and regional elites. The center's specialists say
that all of the Russian Federation's subjects should be treated equally
regardless of their size or status in order to preserve Russian unity,
Russian TV reported on 10 March. -- Anna Paretskaya

NORWAY DOUBTS RUSSIA CONDUCTED NUCLEAR TEST. Refuting recent allegations
in the U.S. media, Norwegian Foreign Minister Bjoern Tore Godal said on
9 March that his government has uncovered no evidence that Russia
conducted a secret underground nuclear test at its Novaya Zemlya test
site in January, ITAR-TASS reported (see OMRI Daily Digest, 8 March
1996). Godal declared that it was "impossible" for a test to occur at
Novaya Zemlya without Norway detecting it. Scientists from the Norwegian
Radiation Safety Institute and Norwegian Seismological Service confirmed
that they were unaware of any evidence that such a test--even of very
low yield--had taken place. The Novaya Zemlya test site is located on a
remote island off the north coast Russia, about 1,000 km away from
Norway. -- Scott Parrish

YELTSIN TO CO-SPONSOR ANTI-TERRORISM SUMMIT. President Yeltsin will
address the opening session of the scheduled 13 March anti-terrorism
summit in the Egyptian resort of Sharm-el-Sheikh, Russian and Western
agencies reported. Presidential spokesman Sergei Medvedev said Yeltsin,
along with U.S President Bill Clinton and Egyptian President Hosni
Mubarak, would co-chair the meeting. The 31-state gathering aims to
boost the stalled Middle East peace process, of which Russia is a co-
sponsor. Iran, Iraq, and Libya have condemned the meeting; Syria also
may not attend. Medvedev noted that Russia is eager to help combat the
"evil" of international terrorism. Russia was embarrassed on the eve of
the meeting, however, by the 8 March hijacking of a jetliner in Cyprus
by a Turkish national, who said he wanted to attract attention to the
ongoing Chechen conflict. -- Scott Parrish

HEALTH MINISTRY ON CONTINUING EFFECTS OF CHORNOBYL CATASTROPHE. Health
Ministry experts said on 9 March that about 800,000 Russian children
were affected by the 1986 Chornobyl nuclear disaster and are under
medical surveillance, Russian and Western agencies reported. About 3,000
children have been hospitalized and another 70,000 are said to have
received medical treatment. The ministry noted an increase in diseases
of the endocrine gland and in tumors among women and children living in
affected areas. About 7,000 Russian towns were contaminated by
radioactivity as a result of the Chornobyl accident. -- Penny Morvant

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

ALIEV IN TBILISI. Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev arrived in Tbilisi
on 8 March for an official three-day visit that had been postponed
several times before, Russian and Western media reported. Aliev and his
Georgian counterpart, Eduard Shevardnadze, signed a 15 agreements on
friendship and cooperation plus a declaration on peace, stability, and
cooperation throughout the Caucasus. Of particular importance was an
agreement signed by representatives of Azerbaijan, Georgia, and the
Azerbaijani International Operating Company (AIOC)--the steering company
representing a consortium of 10 Western oil companies involved in
exploiting three Caspian oil fields--to export part of the oil via
Georgia. The AIOC vice-president told AFP, however, that agreement has
not been reached on financing the Western pipeline, which is unlikely to
be fully operational before September 1997; the first early oil is due
to be exported in late 1996. -- Liz Fuller

DELEGATION FROM NAHICHEVAN IN ANKARA. A high-level delegation from
Nahichevan, an autonomous region of Azerbaijan, is in Ankara for talks
focused on economic and trade issues, Zaman reported on 11 March. To
date, Nahichevan, which shares an approximately10 km-long border with
Turkey, has used $19.6 million of a $20 million line of credit extended
to the region by Turkey's Eximbank. The delegation, led by Nahichevan's
Ali Majlis (parliament) Chairman Vasit Talibov, includes other officials
responsible for the region and republic's foreign economic relations. --
Lowell Bezanis

KYRGYZSTAN TO RECEIVE MORE FUNDING FROM U.S. U.S. presidential adviser
James Collins said U.S. aid to Kyrgyzstan this year will reach at least
the 1995 level of $50 million, according to a Radio Rossii report from 9
March. Collins said the continued aid is a demonstration of U.S.
satisfaction with Kyrgyzstan's progress in democratic reforms, adding
that the Central Asian republic is a leader among CIS countries in this
regard. -- Bruce Pannier

U.S.-UZBEK RELATIONS IMPROVING. Uzbek President Islam Karimov received
official notification from U.S. President Bill Clinton on 8 March that
the U.S.-Uzbek Bilateral Investment Treaty has been submitted to the
U.S. Senate for ratification, ITAR-TASS reported. Signed on 16 December
1994, the treaty states that both sides agree to international law
standards on property expropriation and compensation, free transfer of
funds for investment, and "fair, equitable, and most-favored-nation
treatment." Until now, some U.S. investors were concerned about the
absence of a legal framework for recourse in Uzbekistan. In addition,
Clinton stressed the importance of the military conversion commission
that was in Tashkent last week (see OMRI Daily Digest, 8 March 1996). In
contrast to past criticisms of Uzbekistan, Clinton said that "our two
countries can work together" and that "Uzbekistan can play a key role"
in Central Asia. -- Roger Kangas

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL CRITICIZES KAZAKHSTAN. Amnesty International has
criticized Kazakhstan for executing 101 people last year, ranking the
state of 17 million among countries such as China, Saudi Arabia, and
Nigeria which have the highest numbers of death penalties, Reuters
reported on 9 March. No executions have taken place this year due to
bureaucratic obstacles, according to the Amnesty report. Human rights
groups criticized the Kazakhstani government last year for allegedly
screening videotapes of executions on the state TV channel in order to
deter criminals; the screenings later turned out to be a hoax. An
Interior Ministry spokesperson told Reuters that the death penalty is
justified by the level of violence and the high crime rate in
Kazakhstan. Local human rights organizations have called for a
moratorium on executions while a review of the country's criminal code
is carried out. -- Bhavna Dave

NAZARBAYEV APPOINTS TWO NEW REGIONAL HEADS. Kazakhstani President
Nursultan Nazarbayev appointed Serik Umbetov and Umirzak Uzbekov as the
new heads of the Almaty and Taldy Kurgan oblasts respectively,
Kazakhstani TV reported on 6 March. Uzbekov replaces the previous head,
Serik Akhimbekov, who became the new agriculture minister last week. In
an address carried by Uzbek TV and monitored by the BBC on 7 March,
Nazarbayev called on the new head of the Almaty Oblast to promote
economic recovery and combat the growing crime wave in the region. The
state treasury provides 50% of the Almaty Oblast's budget. -- Bhavna
Dave

POLITICAL GROUPS AND SOCIAL MOVEMENTS SIGN AGREEMENT IN TAJIKISTAN.
Thirty-four officially registered organizations in Tajikistan signed a
social accord in Dushanbe on 9 March, NTV reported. Tajik President
Imomali Rakhmonov said the agreement will achieve "peace as well as
public and ethnic concord in society, ensure human rights and freedoms,
and secure the supremacy of the constitution and accepted norms of
international law." In a likely reference to splinter groups of the
United Tajik Opposition, Rakhmonov also added that Tajikistan's
judiciary will soon allow formerly banned parties that revise their
charters to be registered in the country. Meanwhile, the head of the
Tajik Party for Political and Economic Revival, Mukhtor Babayev, was
gunned down in his car by unknown assailants on 8 March in the north of
the country. Police are investigating the murder. -- Bruce Pannier

[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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