To get rid of an enemy, one must love him. - Leo Tolstoy
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 55, Part I, 18 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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
DUMA DENOUNCES BELOVEZHSK ACCORDS. The Russian State Duma passed a
Communist-sponsored resolution, by a vote of 250-98, renouncing the
RSFSR Supreme Soviet decision of 12 December 1991 to abrogate the 1922
treaty forming the USSR, Russian and Western media reported on 15 March.
The Duma then passed a second resolution, 252-33 with five abstentions,
affirming the "legal force" of the 17 March 1991 referendum on the
preservation of the USSR, in which 71% of those voting in Russia
supported retaining the union. Together, the Duma resolutions assert
that the USSR legally continues to exist, and reject the December 1991
Belovezhsk accords that formed the CIS. The Communist Party of the
Russian Federation, the Agrarian Party, and the Popular Power faction
supported the resolution. Yabloko, Our Home Is Russia, and several
members of the Russian Regions faction opposed it. Repeated attempts to
push similar resolutions through the previous Duma had failed. -- Scott
Parrish
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

RUSSIA

REACTION TO DUMA DENUNCIATION. President Boris Yeltsin immediately
denounced the Duma resolutions as "scandalous" and unconstitutional,
Russian and Western media reported on 15 March. The president accused
the Communists of attempting to torpedo the June presidential elections
by triggering an international crisis. Yeltsin's representative to the
Duma, Aleksandr Kotenkov, said the resolution lacks legal force, as the
earlier decision to dissolve the USSR can only be repealed by a new
federal law, requiring passage by both houses of the Federal Assembly
and signature by the president. Following negative international
reaction, Yeltsin ordered Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov to inform
foreign states and international organizations that the Duma resolution
would not affect Russia's international obligations. The U.S. and
Germany also criticized the resolution. In Moscow, liberal commentators
said it demonstrated the "opportunism" and "hypocrisy" of the Communist-
led opposition. -- Scott Parrish

COMMUNISTS RALLY IN MEMORY OF SOVIET UNION. After the Duma voted on 15
March to declare the dissolution of the Soviet Union invalid, about
1,000 Communists rallied in Moscow to mark the fifth anniversary of the
referendum that supported keeping the USSR together, Western agencies
reported. About 76% of the Soviet citizens who voted on 17 March 1991
favored maintaining the territorial integrity of the USSR. The rally
attracted fewer people than a similar one at the same time last year
despite the Duma resolution. -- Penny Morvant

PROCURATORS FIND EVIDENCE OF FORCED SIGNATURES FOR YELTSIN. Deputy
Procurator General Vladimir Davydov informed the Duma that his office
has found evidence of officials unlawfully pressuring voters to sign
petitions supporting President Yeltsin's re-election bid, Russian media
reported on 15 March. Davydov singled out the Communications Ministry,
the State Committee for Metallurgy, and the East Siberian and Volga
railroad administration, but he did not say whether the officials
involved would be prosecuted. Central Electoral Commission secretary
Aleksandr Veshkyakov suggested amending the electoral law to prohibit
signature collections at workplaces. Organizers of Yeltsin's re-election
campaign announced last week that they had already collected 8 million
signatures supporting the president, far more than the 1 million
required to win a spot on the ballot, even if many are ruled invalid. --
Laura Belin

ZYUGANOV UNVEILS ELECTION PLATFORM. . . Communist Party (KPRF) leader
Gennadii Zyuganov unveiled his election program at a 17 March rally in
Moscow, Russian and Western agencies reported. If he comes to power,
Zyuganov promised among other things to guarantee all citizens the right
to work, increase wages and pensions, compensate those whose savings
were eroded by inflation, end the war in Chechnya, strengthen the ruble,
and establish a state monopoly on trade in goods "of strategic
significance" within a "mixed economy." He denounced the Belovezhsk
accords that brought an end to the USSR but promised not to "threaten
anyone's sovereignty" if he were elected. Like the KPRF election
platform approved before the Duma elections, Zyuganov's platform does
not contain the words "Leninism," "communism," or "nationalization." --
Laura Belin

. . .AND PICKS UP MORE ENDORSEMENTS. Zyuganov was backed on 15 March by
Workers' Russia leader Viktor Anpilov and Union of Officers head
Stanislav Terekhov, who on 4 March had refused to sign a pact supporting
him as the sole candidate of left-wing and "patriotic" forces, Russian
TV reported. More surprisingly, former Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoi
appeared at the 17 March KPRF rally; he said he would support Zyuganov
despite his differences with the communist program because the people
chose the KPRF in December elections, according to ITAR-TASS. (Rutskoi
had earlier joined the "third force" group, which was formed to find an
alternative to Yeltsin or Zyuganov.) Meanwhile, the latest VCIOM poll
shows Zyuganov with 25% support and beating all other major presidential
contenders in a head to head contest, NTV reported. However, Yeltsin
appears to be narrowing Zyuganov's lead; the same poll measured his
support at 15%. -- Laura Belin

CHECHEN HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST WOUNDED IN TURKEY. Sait-Emin Ibrahimov, a
former transport minister in the rebel Chechen government, was stabbed
near Taksim Square in Istanbul on 16 March, Western agencies reported
the next day. Hospital officials said the three wounds he received were
not life threatening. Living in Istanbul since March of last year,
Ibragimov has been leading the Turkey-based Human Rights Committee which
releases information on alleged crimes by Russian troops in Chechnya.
Ibragimov said he has received threats warning him to "not get involved
with peace" ever since he published a book entitled "The State of the
World," Reuters reported. -- Lowell Bezanis

RUSSIA AND BULGARIA SIGN ECONOMIC ACCORDS. Wrapping up a two-day
official visit to Moscow, Bulgarian Prime Minister Zhan Videnov signed
six economic cooperation agreements with his Russian counterpart, Viktor
Chernomyrdin, Russian and Western agencies reported. The agreements
cover bilateral ties in the energy, forestry, and agricultural sectors,
as well as the sale to Bulgaria of Russian tanks and armored vehicles.
The two leaders emphasized that continued conflict in Chechnya and the
Caucasus would not affect their plans to possibly export Russian and
Caspian oil to world markets through Bulgaria. Videnov later met with
President Yeltsin, and ITAR-TASS reported that they agreed on the need
to create a new European security system that does not draw "new lines
of division" in Europe, an oblique criticism of NATO expansion, which
Videnov opposes. -- Scott Parrish

WASHINGTON ASKS MOSCOW ABOUT NUCLEAR TEST. According to a senior U.S.
diplomat, Washington has asked Moscow for "clarification" of whether
Russia conducted a nuclear test in January in violation of a voluntary
moratorium that has been in effect since 1992, AFP reported on 17 March.
On 7 March, U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry told Congress that some
evidence suggested Russia carried out a small-scale nuclear test at
Novaya Zemlya, following allegations published in The Washington Times
(see OMRI Daily Digest, 8 March 1996). Russian officials have denied
that a test was conducted. -- Constantine Dmitriev

NUCLEAR REACTOR SHUT DOWN AFTER SECOND ACCIDENT THIS YEAR. Operations at
a nuclear reactor at the Dimitrovgrad research center in Central Russia
have been suspended indefinitely after the second accident there in less
than two months, Russian and Western agencies reported on 15 March. The
decision was made after an air conditioner inside the reactor building
caught fire. According to ITAR-TASS, no one was exposed to radiation. At
the end of January, a defective valve in the reactor led to the release
of a cloud of radioactive vapor that contaminated the area around the
facility. -- Penny Morvant

SOROS TO HELP RUSSIAN UNIVERSITIES LINK UP TO INTERNET. Billionaire
financier and philanthropist George Soros will give $100 million to help
30 regional Russian universities link up to the Internet, Russian and
Western agencies reported. The program was announced after a meeting
between Soros and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin in Moscow on 15
March. The Russian government will provide telecommunications resources.
In recent years, the Soros Foundation has donated $200 million to
support science, culture, and education programs in Russia. -- Penny
Morvant

TRADE DISPUTES OVER CHICKEN, VODKA. On 16 March, the ban on imports of
U.S. chickens, announced a month ago by Russia's head veterinarian,
Vyacheslav Avilov, went into effect. This occurred despite earlier
reports that Russia had agreed to drop the ban (see OMRI Daily Digest, 6
March 1996) . On 18 March, EU Foreign Affairs Commissioner Hans van den
Broek arrives in Moscow, and he is expected to protest the 12 March
decision to set a minimum price for EU vodka imports at $8.2 per liter,
while imports from the CIS can be sold for $3.8. -- Peter Rutland

LEGAL CHALLENGE TO LOAN/SHARE AUCTIONS. The Procurator General's Office
is preparing to challenge the legality of last fall's 12 share-for-loan
auctions in the Arbitration Court, Segodnya reported on 15 March. The
purchase of Yukos shares by five companies formed only days before the
auction (such as ZAO Laguna), with financial backing from Menatep Bank,
is to be one of the issues raised. The procurator will argue that the
list of firms should have been fixed by the government, not by the State
Property Committee, according to President Yeltsin's original August
1995 decree, and that the procedure for running the auctions was not
registered with the Justice Ministry. Radio Rossii reported on 16 March
that the Chelyabinsk procurator is investigating the theft of 22 billion
rubles ($4.5 million) received from the sale of shares in Magnitogorsk
metal combine. -- Peter Rutland

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

CENTRAL ASIAN REACTIONS TO RUSSIAN DUMA'S CIS DECISION. Kazakhstani
President Nursultan Nazarbayev said the Russian State Duma's resolution
to declare the dissolution of the USSR unconstitutional is "conducive to
a sharp destabilization," noting that it could, in the end, destroy
Russian statehood, according to a 17 March press release cited by the
BBC. Uzbek Radio reported that Uzbekistan's Oliy Majlis (parliament)
condemned the measure in a 16 March vote, with speaker Erkin Khalilov
declaring that the Duma had "grossly infringed on the political states
of sovereign Uzbekistan. Official statements from Tajikistan and
Kyrgyzstan stressed the internal nature of the vote, saying that it
would not affect their own state sovereignty, ITAR-TASS reported.
Reaction was similar in the Transcaucasus, with Armenian President Levon
Ter-Petrossyan calling the vote a "provocation" and Georgian President
Eduard Shevardnadze stating that the vote "could only harm" the
integration of the CIS states, RFE/RL reported on 15 March. -- Roger
Kangas

PRICE HIKES, SACKING IN TURKMENISTAN. Turkmen President Saparmurad
Niyazov raised bread prices 150% and sacked the governor [hakim] of Mary
province [vilayet], Kurban Orazov, on 15 March, Western media reported
the same day. Orazov will be replaced by Deputy Prime Minister Amannazar
Ilamov. According to Reuters, Niyazov was shown on state television
threatening to dismiss officials who fail to provide the population with
"adequate food." There have been sporadic and unconfirmed reports of
popular protests at bread shortages in Turkmenistan and several regional
officials have lost their jobs recently. After Niyazov sacked 10 of 50
local administration heads for failing to meet state orders for wheat
supplies in August 1995, it has become apparent that last year's grain
harvest fell short of officially reported totals. -- Lowell Bezanis

KYRGYZ ARMY BESET BY ECONOMIC, ETHNIC PROBLEMS. The Kyrgyz army is beset
by illiteracy, poor health, low pay, and regionalism, Nezavisimaya
gazeta reported on 14 March. A number of first-year conscripts weigh
only 45-50 kg, instead of the standard weight requirement of 60-70 kg.
The average pay of an officer is only a fifth of what the Russia Border
Troops earn; whereas the 10 som monthly pay of a conscript is equivalent
to the price of a tube of toothpaste. It quoted Colonel Talgarbek
Ismailov, the military commissar of Naryn region in Central Kyrgyzstan,
as saying in an interview with Respublika that "tribalism" is a key
problem in the Kyrgyz army, as officers from the north are reluctant to
serve in the south. -- 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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