Every individual has a place to fill in the world, and is important, in some respect, whether he chooses to be so or not. - Nathaniel Hawthorne
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 59, Part I, 22 March 1996


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provides thorough coverage of business and financial developments
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New OMRI Analytical Briefs:
-  "The New Day", by Bruce Pannier
-  "Christopher Allays (Some) East European Fears", by Steve Kettle
-  "Albanian Political Row as Elections Loom", by Fabian Schmidt
-  "Demirel's Middle East Tour:  Turco-Israeli Relations Warm, Turco-Arab
   Relations Cold", by Lowell Bezanis
-  "Bulgarian Coal Miners Strike", by Stefan Krause
-  "Slovakia's Schizophrenic Relations with NATO", by Sharon Fisher
-  "Hungary Maintains a Firm Position on NATO Membership", by Zsofia Szilagyi

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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
YELTSIN AIDE HINTS ELECTION COULD BE POSTPONED. President Yeltsin's top
legal adviser, Mikhail Krasnov, did not rule out the possibility that
presidential elections scheduled for June could be postponed if "a
crisis emerges in the country," Russian media reported on 21 March. A
legal expert for the Constitutional Court speculated that the Federation
Council, which is empowered to set presidential elections, might also
have the right to postpone them in a "crisis situation," but this is a
gray area since the Duma has never passed a federal constitutional law
on emergency situations, Radio Rossii reported. -- Laura Belin
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

RUSSIA

DUMA CONCERNED ABOUT "UNOBJECTIVE COVERAGE" ON STATE TELEVISION. The
State Duma has invited Russian Public TV (ORT) Director-General Sergei
Blagovolin and Russian TV Chairman Eduard Sagalaev to discuss the
problem of "unobjective coverage of the parliament's activities" on the
nation's top two television channels at a 22 March Duma session, Russian
media reported on 21 March. News coverage on the 51% state-owned Channel
1 broadcaster ORT is considered generally pro-government. The fully
state-owned Channel 2 broadcaster Russian TV has been considered more
neutral in the past, but some have charged that it has become more
slanted toward the executive since President Yeltsin replaced the
station's chairman, Oleg Poptsov, with Sagalaev in February (see OMRI
Daily Digest, 16 February 1996). -- Laura Belin

ZHIRINOVSKY'S PARTY LOSES ANOTHER LEADING MEMBER. Aleksandr
Vengerovskii, the chairman of the Duma subcommittee on foreign
intelligence activities, announced that he is voluntarily leaving
Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, ITAR-TASS
reported on 22 March. He did not give a reason for his departure. Before
the December elections, Vengerovskii was one of five deputy speakers in
the Duma and held the title of LDPR deputy chairman. In early 1994, the
LDPR lost Duma Deputy Viktor Kobelev, Zhirinovsky's 1993 campaign
manager. Then-chairman of the Geopolitics Committee Viktor Ustinov left
the LDPR in early 1995. -- Laura Belin

GORBACHEV FORMALLY ANNOUNCES PRESIDENTIAL BID. Mikhail Gorbachev
formally announced that he was running for president in St. Petersburg
on 21 March, Russian and Western media reported. Gorbachev discounted
his very low ratings in opinion polls, saying more than a million
signatures have been collected supporting his candidacy. He said voters
need a third option besides President Yeltsin and Communist Party leader
Gennadii Zyuganov, and he did not rule out cooperation with the so-
called "third force" group of eye surgeon Svyatoslav Fedorov, Aleksandr
Lebed, and Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii. -- Laura Belin

YELTSIN SLAMS MINIMUM WAGE HIKE. President Yeltsin described the Duma's
20 March decision to raise the minimum wage by 20% as of 1 April as "an
undisguised populist step," Russian agencies reported on 21 March.
Presidential press secretary Sergei Medvedev said that such an increase
would undermine efforts to pay off wage arrears--one of Yeltsin's main
pre-election promises. The government estimates that the raise would
cost the budget an additional 643 billion rubles ($128 million).
Medvedev said Yeltsin might not veto the bill but simply send it back to
the Duma on the grounds that financial questions must be discussed with
the government before being voted on in the parliament. -- Penny Morvant

CONSTITUTIONAL CRISIS IN DAGESTAN. A constitutional crisis has broken
out in Dagestan over a parliament decision to extend the term in office
of the State Council--the highest executive body in the republic--by
another two years, Radio Mayak and Ekho Moskvy reported on 21 March.
Dagestan's constitution does not allow for any extensions of executive
terms in office. The Constitutional Court, however, ruled that the
decision was constitutional. Several organizations held protest rallies
in the Dagestani capital Makhachkala, while the chairman of the Union of
Russia's Muslims, Nadir Khachilaev, announced that his group now opposes
the present leadership of Dagestan. Khachilaev said the State Council is
composed of former Communist Party nomenklatura and must be reformed.
The parliament intends to amend the constitution in order to overcome
the crisis. -- Anna Paretskaya

RUSSIAN COSSACKS TO SUPPORT YELTSIN FOR RE-ELECTION. Cossack unit
leaders have called on their subordinates to back President Yeltsin in
the June presidential election, Russian TV reported on 21 March. Sergei
Dontsov, a member of the presidential Council on Cossack Affairs, Sergei
Dontsov, said he was sure that the Cossack electorate, numbering 5-7
million people, will cast their votes for Yeltsin since he helped
restore the Cossacks as a social group. On the same day, thirteen of the
78 presidential candidates declared so far--all marginal figures--threw
their support behind President Yeltsin to create a "united front" for
"constructive forces," ITAR-TASS reported. -- Anna Paretskaya

YELTSIN MEETS NATO GENERAL SECRETARY. Javier Solana met with President
Yeltsin, Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev, and Foreign Minister Yevgenii
Primakov on 21 March to discuss NATO-Russia cooperation and the possible
eastward expansion of the alliance, Russian and Western media reported.
Yeltsin struck a tough stance, saying that Primakov had previously
expressed Russian objections to NATO enlargement "too mildly," and
promising "to more harshly formulate our position." Solana subsequently
admitted that two days of talks in Moscow had not produced any softening
of Russian opposition to NATO's plans to accept new members, although he
said Russia had agreed to an individual participation plan for 1996
under NATO's Partnership for Peace program. He reiterated that
enlargement would proceed despite Russian protests. -- Scott Parrish

DUMA CHAIRMAN BLASTS CHRISTOPHER. Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev
attacked U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher's criticism of the
Duma resolutions denouncing the Belavezha accords, Russian and Western
agencies reported on 21 March. Seleznev said that Christopher, who on a
recent visit to Kyiv termed the Duma resolutions "highly irresponsible"
(see OMRI Daily Digest, 20 March 1996), had "crudely interfered in the
internal affairs of Russia." He added that the Duma would on 22 March
consider a resolution censuring Christopher, who on 21 March arrived in
Moscow for an official visit and a meeting of the international Contact
Group on the former Yugoslavia. Seleznev announced that the Duma had
postponed its reconsideration of the resolutions until sometime in early
April. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIA WILL TRAIN IRANIAN NUCLEAR SPECIALISTS. Russia will soon sign a
contract to train Iranian nuclear specialists at the Kurchatov Institute
in Moscow, Russian and Western agencies reported on 21 March. Andrei
Gagarinskii, an institute spokesman, told ITAR-TASS the contract
provides for the training of several dozen Iranian technicians in the
operation of the planned VVER-1000 reactor which Russia is constructing
at Bushehr, in southern Iran. The Bushehr project, where preliminary
construction is already underway, will be among the topics raised by
U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher during his two-day visit to
Moscow beginning on 21 March. -- Scott Parrish

YELTSIN SIGNS DECREE ON SPRING DRAFT. President Yeltsin launched the
spring draft with a call for 200,000 Russian citizens, born between 1969
and 1978, to be inducted into the armed forces in April-June 1996, NTV
reported on 21 March. Meanwhile, draft-dodging remains a serious problem
which has grown worse due to the unpopular Chechen conflict. The acting
military commissar of Moscow, Viktor Bespalchikov, admitted that 5,500
Muscovites attempted to evade the draft during 1995 and only about
10,000 conscripts were drafted from Moscow that year, ITAR-TASS reported
on 19 March. Bespalchikov also expressed concern that every third
draftee was not medically fit for military service. -- Constantine
Dmitriev

RUSSIAN ARMY DESTROYS ITSELF IN CHECHNYA. Moskovskie Novosti on 21 March
contended that the Russian army in Chechnya has reached a point of
"complete disintegration," and described Russian soldiers there as
spending most of their time in a drug or alcohol-induced haze. The
article reported "fragging" incidents where soldiers shot superior
officers who attempted to discipline them. It also charged that bribery
and corruption were rampant among federal troops in the republic.
Meanwhile, on 22 March the North Caucasus military district commander,
Col. Gen. Anatolii Kvashnin, told ITAR-TASS that a high-ranking federal
commander in Chechnya has been arrested on charges of "criminal
connections with Chechen separatists." -- Doug Clarke and Constantine
Dmitriev

ATTEMPT ON LIFE OF STAVROPOL DEPUTY MILITARY COMMISSAR. Colonel Andrei
Yanenko, deputy military commissar in Stavropol Krai, was seriously
injured on 21 March when a bomb went off in his car, ITAR-TASS reported.
Local police said it was too early to say whether the attack on Yanenko
was connected with Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev's threats to carry
out further terrorist attacks in Russia. Stavropol Krai has been the
site of numerous terrorist attacks in recent years, including the
Budennovsk hostage crisis. -- Penny Morvant

MiG-MAPO EQUIPS TRAINING PLANES WITH FRENCH ENGINES. The MiG-MAPO design
bureau has started test flights of its new training-fighter Mig-AT,
equipped with jet engines produced by the French "Snecma" corporation,
Finansovye izvestiya reported on 21 March. Russian military experts say
that South Africa, India, the U.S., and other countries may be
interested in the new $12 million aircraft. In addition to possible
exports, the Russian Defense Ministry also plans to replace its aging
fleet of L-29 and L-39 Czech-made trainers with the new MiG-AT planes.
-- Constantine Dmitriev

PROTECTION FOR DEPOSITORS AND INVESTORS. President Yeltsin ordered
federal agencies on 21 March to come up with concrete proposals to
protect depositors and investors within two months, Radio Rossii
reported. The same day, Pavel Medvedev, chair of the Duma sub-committee
on bank legislation, said that steps will soon be taken to create a
federal depositor insurance fund, ITAR-TASS reported. In November 1995,
the Duma passed legislation on the compulsory insurance of bank
deposits, but Yeltsin declined to sign it into law. The plan is for
depositors to receive 90% compensation, up to a sum equal to 250 times
the minimum wage (about 19 million rubles, or $3,750). Sberbank, which
holds 70% of personal savings, is not involved, since its deposits are
already guaranteed by the state. -- Peter Rutland

CONCERN OVER FOOD SUPPLIES. On 20 March, the Federation Council
discussed the alleged threat to Russia's "food security" posed by the
growing dependence on imported food, Rossiiskaya gazeta reported.
Yevgenii Savchenko, the chair of the council's Agricultural Policy
Committee, estimated that more than one third of Russia's food needs
were met by imports in 1995. According to ITAR-TASS of 20 March,
agricultural subsidies in 1995 amounted to 6.7 trillion rubles ($1.4
billion) from the federal budget and 14 trillion from local budgets,
roughly equal to 7.5% of total farm revenue. Deputy Agriculture Minister
Vladimir Shcherbak said his ministry is hoping for 13.2 trillion from
the federal budget in 1996. -- Peter Rutland

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

ABKHAZ LEADER SUPPORTS RESTORATION OF USSR. Abkhaz President Vladislav
Ardzinba declared that Abkhazia would support the restoration of the
former USSR, provided this did not mean Abkhazia's return into Georgia,
Iberia news agency reported on 19 March. Ardzinba said the Abkhaz people
had been against the break-up of the Soviet Union and have done
everything in their power to keep it. Meanwhile, the Abkhaz parliament
is scheduled to convene for an emergency session on 22 March to demand
the withdrawal of Russian border guards from Abkhazia, Russian media
reported on 21 March. Parliament Speaker Sokrat Dzhindzholia said the
session has been called in reaction to a decision by Russia and Georgia
to subject all Sukhumi bound ships to customs and border controls in the
Georgian port of Poti. -- Irakli Tsereteli

NEW STOCK EXCHANGE TO OPEN IN UZBEKISTAN. Uzbekistan is preparing to
open a stock exchange in the capital Tashkent, ITAR-TASS reported on 21
March. The refurbished former Svetlov concert hall in the center of the
city will be home to a securities exchange, real estate traders, the
national investment fund, and the national securities depository. There
are 80 offices for brokers, 12 with computer links to Uzbekistan's
oblast centers, and a satellite link. The exchange is reportedly the
first of its kind in the CIS. -- Bruce Pannier

CIS MUSLIMS WELCOME THE NEW YEAR. Muslims in the republics of the CIS
celebrated the beginning of the Islamic New Year, Nawruz, on 21 March.
Azerbaijan was the exception, marking the event on 20 March, according
to Turan. The day is timed to coincide with the first day of spring and
typically features national games and performances of folk songs by
national troupes. The holiday was among the first officially reinstated
by the governments of the largely Muslim republics in Central Asia and
Azerbaijan after becoming independent in 1991. -- 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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