It is the chiefest point of happiness that a man is willing to be what he is. - Erasmus
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 56, Part I, 19 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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
ZYUGANOV CLAIMS YELTSIN PLOTTING TO DISSOLVE DUMA. Communist Party
(KPRF) leader Gennadii Zyuganov stood by his 18 March allegations that
President Boris Yeltsin's camp is preparing measures to dissolve the
Duma, despite Yeltsin's assurance that he has no such plan and that
Zyuganov "does not need to ride to work in an armored personnel
carrier." In an interview with Ekho Moskvy, Zyuganov claimed the
president's circle is "distorting facts" to prepare the ground for
action against the Duma. Meanwhile, Yeltsin adviser Georgii Satarov told
ITAR-TASS that the Kremlin will not hand such a "gift" to the Communists
before the presidential elections, and an ITAR-TASS commentator
suggested that Zyuganov's accusation is designed to attract public
sympathy by portraying his party as a victim of official intrigues. --
Laura Belin
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

RUSSIA

FEDERATION COUNCIL TO CONSIDER DUMA DENUNCIATION. President Yeltsin has
asked the Federation Council, the upper house of parliament, to examine
the Duma's denunciation of the Belavezha accords at its 19 March
session, Russian media reported on 18 March. Council Speaker Yegor
Stroev said the upper house would try to find a "mutually acceptable way
out of the situation." In thinly-veiled criticism of Communist Party
leader Gennadii Zyuganov, Stroev said the council would not be governed
by the "wave of populism that certain participants in the [presidential]
election campaign are trying to use," ITAR-TASS reported. Sources inside
both houses of parliament indicate that lawmakers are searching for a
face-saving way to settle the issue following the storm of protest
provoked by the Duma's action. -- Laura Belin

PRIMAKOV ATTACKS DUMA RESOLUTION. Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii
Primakov blasted the recent Duma resolutions denouncing the Belavezha
accords that formed the CIS, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 March. Primakov
said the resolutions undermined Russia's reputation as a reliable
international partner, and by effectively denying the sovereignty of the
other former Soviet republics, would "virtually torpedo the trend
towards integration" within the CIS. Primakov added that the Duma's
actions would strengthen the arguments of Eastern European supporters of
NATO expansion, fostering the impression that Russian policy is
unpredictable and aims to re-establish the USSR. Duma International
Affairs Committee Chairman Vladimir Lukin (Yabloko), who voted against
the resolutions, echoed these comments, saying the Duma had handed the
proponents of NATO expansion "a real trump card." -- Scott Parrish

FILATOV ON CAMPAIGN TRAIL. Visiting Kaluga Oblast on 18 March, Sergei
Filatov, one of President Yeltsin's top campaign organizers, emphasized
the central message of the president's campaign: anti-communism. Filatov
said the contest between Yeltsin and Zyuganov will be a "battle between
two systems," one that would preserve the reforms, and another that
would destroy economic and political stability in the country, Radio
Rossii reported. Filatov also told ITAR-TASS that Yeltsin will unveil
his election platform on 6 April. -- Laura Belin

KARACHAEVO-CHERKESSIYA ADOPTS CONSTITUTION. The republic of Karachaevo-
Cherkessiya has a new constitution, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 March. In
February, the Congress of Karachaevo-Cherkess Peoples denounced an
earlier draft of the constitution for strengthening the personal
authority of current republican head Vladimir Khubiev. Republican
parliament member Murat Khatukaev worked out an alternative draft,
modeled on a parliamentary rather than presidential system, but it was
not considered. -- Anna Paretskaya

RUSSIA BACKTRACKS ON CONTACT GROUP MEETING. Reversing a decision
announced on 15 March, Russia decided at the last minute to send an
observer to the 18 March meeting of the international Contact Group on
the former Yugoslavia, ITAR-TASS reported. Earlier, Russian spokesmen
had described the U.S.-sponsored meeting with the Serbian, Croatian, and
acting Bosnian presidents as "useless," since the foreign ministers of
the Contact Group have long been scheduled to meet in Moscow on 23
March. Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov agreed to send a
counselor to participate in the Geneva meeting after U.S. Secretary of
State Warren Christopher assured him that the session would only be a
prelude to the Moscow meeting. Russian diplomats were annoyed that the
last-minute Geneva meeting, organized by the U.S., might overshadow the
long-planned Moscow session. -- Scott Parrish

EUROPEANS URGED TO GET TOUGH OVER CHECHNYA. Human Rights Watch urged
European governments to pressure Moscow to end human rights abuses in
Chechnya, Western agencies reported on 18 March. Rachel Denber, head of
the organization's Moscow office, criticized the EU for ratifying an
interim trade accord with Russia this past November despite continued
fighting in Chechnya, which she estimated had killed 9,000 civilians.
Lotte Licht, another spokesperson for Human Rights Watch, urged the EU
and the Council of Europe to end their "silent diplomacy" on Chechnya
and "make it absolutely clear to Moscow that violations must cease."
Meanwhile, EU External Relations Commissioner Hans van den Broek,
visiting Moscow, expressed "concern" with the excessive use of force by
federal troops in Chechnya, but he blamed the continued fighting on
separatist Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev. He said Dudaev's
"impossible" demand for independence had blocked any negotiated
settlement. -- Scott Parrish

LACK OF LEGISLATION PREVENTS RUSSIA FROM DESTROYING CHEMICAL WEAPONS.
Protests by environmentalists and the lack of appropriate legislation
continue to prevent Russia from implementing the 1993 Chemical Weapons
Convention, Russian TV reported on 18 March. Plans to construct a
chemical weapons destruction facility to process the mustard gas and
lewisite near Gornyi in Saratov Oblast (see OMRI Daily Digest, 24
January 1996) have been stalled by local environmentalists demanding
further safety studies. Meanwhile, the steel tanks in which the
chemicals are stored could start leaking. The State Duma has yet to
ratify the 1993 convention and it has not passed legislation on the
destruction of chemical weapons. -- Constantine Dmitriev

GERMANY TO SEND PLUTONIUM TO RUSSIA FOR TESTING. Germany will send a 10g
sample of the 360g of plutonium seized by its agents at the Munich
airport in August 1994 to Russia for testing, ITAR-TASS reported on 18
March, citing German government official Bernd Schmidbauer. German media
reports in February claimed that the material was stolen from a research
reactor at Obninsk, southwest of Moscow, but the Federal Security
Service said the origins of the plutonium could only be determined after
tests were carried out and criticized Bonn for failing to respond to its
request for a sample (see OMRI Daily Digest, 13 and 14 February 1996). A
German parliamentary commission has been investigating the plutonium
case since May 1995 following allegations that the German security
services instigated the operation to pressure Moscow into taking more
steps to prevent the theft of nuclear material. -- Penny Morvant

RUSSIA GETS 900 MILLION ECU GRANT FROM EU. The EU signed an agreement
with Russia on 18 March to provide a 900 million ($1.14 billion) ECU
grant under the TACIS program to facilitate economic restructuring and
set up business training programs, Western agencies and ITAR-TASS
reported. The deal was negotiated by EU External Relations Commissioner
Hans van den Broek and Russian First Deputy Premier Vladimir Kadannikov.
Foreign Economic Relations Minister Oleg Davydov said that part of the
grant may be used for modernizing the Russian textile industry. He noted
that if the EU participates in reconstructing this sector, the
government may refrain from imposing quotas on EU textile imports. --
Natalia Gurushina

NEW $100 BILLS TO ENTER CIRCULATION. Assistant Treasury Secretary Darcy
Bradbury said the U.S. will start issuing new version $100 bills next
week, Reuters reported on 19 March. The new design will be more
difficult to counterfeit. Some $20 billion in cash is thought to be held
by Russians, most of it in $100 bills. There is concern that Russians
may panic when the new bills appear, fearing that the old ones will not
be accepted. A major publicity campaign has been launched to reassure
Russians that the U.S. government will continue to redeem the old $100
bills in perpetuity. The Russian government persuaded banks to limit
their commission for changing new bills for old to 2%, although there
are already reports of banks charging up to 5% to cash in torn or
defaced bills. -- Peter Rutland

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

KARIMOV SUPPORTIVE OF RUSSIA'S ROLE IN CENTRAL ASIA. Uzbek President
Islam Karimov sent a telegram to President Boris Yeltsin in which he
rejected the Russian State Duma's resolution to denounce the Belavezha
accords, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 March. Karimov also expressed support
for Russia's democratic reforms and Russo-Uzbek cooperation. He noted
that there is no alternative to the CIS and affirmed Russia's right to
play a "leading role" in the region. Such praise is tempered by some
Uzbek government statements, for example following Russian Foreign
Minister Yevgenii Primakov's visit to Tashkent in January, stressing
that Russia should recognize Uzbekistan's status as an "equal partner."
-- Roger Kangas

NIYAZOV IN AZERBAIJAN. Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov signed
several agreements with his Azerbaijani counterpart, Heidar Aliev,
during a visit to Baku on 18 March, Russian and Azerbaijani agencies
reported. The agreements included a friendship and cooperation treaty,
and accords on free trade, pensions, an international air corridor,
national security, education, health care, and exchanges of legal and
scientific information, Turan reported. According to Russian Public TV
(ORT), Niyazov expressed his desire to see Turkmenistan's hydro-carbons
moved to Western markets via Azerbaijan and Georgia. Niyazov's press
secretary told Turan that Turkmenistan wants all states bordering on the
Caspian Sea to determine the status of the sea and to cooperate in
fighting naval piracy and weapons and drugs smuggling. -- Lowell Bezanis

MEDIA CRACKDOWN IN AZERBAIJAN. A harassment campaign aimed at opposition
journalists attempting to cover the work of the recently-elected Milli
Mejlis (People's Assembly) is continuing, according to Turan on 16
March. The correspondents for Turan and the Azerbaijan Popular Front
newspaper Azadlyg have been deprived of their accreditation. In
addition, parliament member Jalal Aliev, Azerbaijani President Heidar
Aliev's brother, has called for the closure of all opposition
newspapers. -- Liz Fuller

RUSSIAN NEWSPAPER ASSESSES SITUATION IN TAJIKISTAN. In an analysis of
the Russian presence in Tajikistan, the 17-24 March edition of the
Russian newspaper Nezavisimaya gazeta noted that "it would be a big
mistake" to allow countries such as Iran and Pakistan to gain access to
Tajikistan's strategic resources such as uranium ore. The report also
noted that cotton, which is abundant in Tajikistan, is important for the
production of explosives. The article claimed that Tajikistan's radar
stations had been destroyed during the civil war and that "a plane could
fly without any problem from Tajikistan straight to Moscow unnoticed."
The article also reported that a Russian credit of 80 billion rubles
earmarked for the ethnic Russian community in Tajikistan had
"disappeared into thin air." It concluded that Tajik President Imomali
Rakhmonov is too weak to protect Russia's interests in the region but
that there is no suitable replacement at this time. -- Bruce Pannier

KAZAKHSTANI DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER DISMISSED. President Nursultan
Nazarbayev on 14 March relieved First Deputy Prime Minister Vitalii
Mette from his post, ITAR-TASS reported. Mette's ouster, the first major
change in the top echelons of power, was likely brought about by
internal squabbles within the government and the need to blame a
scapegoat for the country's poor economic performance, ITAR-TASS added.
Mette, the former director of the nuclear fuel producer Ulba
Metallurgical Plant in East Kazakhstan, was appointed first deputy prime
minister a year and a half ago. -- Bhavna Dave

KAZAKHSTAN LAUNCHES A UNIFORM POLICY ON NAMING PLACES. In an effort to
regulate the onomastics policy of naming places according to their
etymology, the Kazakhstani government issued a formal statement on the
rules of naming and renaming geographical locations, organizations,
streets, and government offices, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 March.
According to this statement, original place names that were changed
arbitrarily are to be restored. Transliterations of the new names in
Russian and other languages are to be based on the original spelling in
Kazakh. Since Kazakh was declared the sole state language in 1993,
several thousand names of regions, cities, towns, and streets have been
changed from Russian, or russified renderings of Kazakh names, to what
government officials claim to be the original Kazakh names, based on
Kazakh orthography. -- 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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