When in doubt, tell the truth. - Mark Twain
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 61, Part I, 26 March 1996


New OMRI Analytical Briefs:
-  "Slovak Parliament Aproves Territorial Arrangement Law," by Sharon Fisher

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 CONSIDERED CLOSING DUMA. The extremist newspaper Zavtra ,
quoting sources close to the presidential administration, charged that
presidential security adviser Yurii Baturin drafted decrees disbanding
the State Duma and banning the Communist Party of the Russian Federation
following the State Duma's vote to restore the Soviet Union. Baturin
denied that he had prepared such decrees, although he admitted there was
a discussion among the president's aides, NTV reported on 24 March. The
disbanding option was quickly dismissed as "dangerous and provocative"
and the president decided instead on proposing a bill to confirm
Russia's legal status and international commitments. -- Robert Orttung
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

RUSSIA

OPPOSITION DUMA LEADERS APPEAL TO MILITARY. The initiators of the Duma's
15 March decision to denounce the treaty disbanding the Soviet Union,
including Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov and Liberal
Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, issued an appeal to
servicemen of all ranks in Sovetskaya Rossiya on 26 March. The appeal
warns the military to be "vigilant" against attempts at provocation. It
reminds them that the Russian constitution prohibits the use of the
military against its own people and its elected officials and warns them
not to bring the "black shadow of shame" on the Russian army. The appeal
suggests that the military will play a greater role in politics if
tensions between the president and Duma intensify. -- Robert Orttung

ZYUGANOV OPPOSED DECISION TO VOTE ON USSR RESTORATION. Communist leader
Zyuganov opposed the decision to denounce the Belavezha accords in the
Duma on 15 March rather than later in the year, according to the anti-
communist Izvestiya on 26 March. The decision was allegedly made by the
Communist Party's Central Executive Committee--the analog of the
politburo--in Zyuganov's absence under the chairmanship of Valentin
Kuptsov, and was presented to the party leader as a fait accompli.
Zyuganov wanted to wait until after the presidential election to act on
restoring the USSR. Zyuganov's plans, however, divided the party
leadership and Kuptsov acted to subordinate Zyuganov to the party's more
hardline faction, the paper claims. -- Robert Orttung

DUMA PASSES LAW ON HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSIONER. The Duma passed on 23
March in the second reading the draft law on Russia's human rights
commissioner, Russian TV reported. The bill has been under discussion
for more than two years, but three earlier attempts to pass it at the
second reading failed because of disagreement over how the commissioner
should be appointed. The latest draft stipulates that the nomination of
candidates to the post must be approved by a two-thirds majority in the
Duma but that the appointment must be approved by only a simple
majority. -- Penny Morvant

LENINGRAD OBLAST GOVERNOR TO JOIN CITY AND OBLAST. Leningrad Oblast
Governor Aleksandr Belyakov has proposed that the oblast be
administratively united with its capital, St. Petersburg, one of two
Russian cities that is a separate federation subject, ITAR-TASS reported
on 22 March. Belyakov plans to promote his proposal by running in St.
Petersburg's mayoral elections on 19 May. If elected, he said he will
keep his post as oblast governor, which he said does not violate the
Russian constitution. Belyakov added that the Our Home Is Russia bloc
will back his candidacy. -- Anna Paretskaya

KALMYKIYA TO BUILD "CHESS VILLAGE." The republic of Kalmykiya has
contracted a Turkish company to build a "chess village" in the
republic's capital Elista, ITAR-TASS reported. The village, consisting
of an 8,000-seat "chess palace," four-star international hotel, and
other structures, will accommodate some 10,000 people expected for the
International Chess Federation's (FIDE) 67th Congress and the 33rd World
Chess Olympic Games in 1998. Kalmykian President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov was
elected FIDE chief in November last year. In 1993, Gari Kasparov, who
had wrested the world title from Anatolii Karpov eight years before,
helped found the rival Professional Chess Association. Karpov is now the
FIDE champion. -- Anna Paretskaya

YELTSIN VISITS NORWAY. In Norway for an official visit on 25 March,
President Boris Yeltsin suggested that East European states could become
political members of NATO without joining its military structures,
Western media reported. Yeltsin referred to this as the "French
example." His two previous planned trips to Norway, in July and November
1995, were canceled due to ill health. Norway shares a 200 km border
with Russia, and has grave concerns over Russian industrial and nuclear
pollution in the Arctic region. Yeltsin will also discuss the
demarcation of their respective territory in the Barents Sea. Norway is
thought to be one of the NATO members (along with Greece) that is most
skeptical about NATO expansion. The approval of all 16 NATO member
states is required before new entrants can be added. -- Peter Rutland

CONTINUING UNCERTAINTY OVER BELARUS TREATY. The terms of the treaty
which Belarus and Russia will sign on 2 April remain obscure despite
efforts by Yeltsin administration officials to clarify the issue.
Dmitrii Ryurikov, Yeltsin's foreign policy adviser, said on 25 March
that the pact to be signed on 29 March with Belarus, Kazakhstan, and
Kyrgystan will have a purely economic character, while the 2 April
treaty with Belarus will pursue "deeper integration." He said the 29
March pact will include a payments union and will be open for other
nations to join. However, he compared the 29 March pact to the European
Union--which other Yelstin officials have used as an analogy for the 2
April Belarus treaty. -- Peter Rutland

UN HUMAN RIGHTS MEETING. The head of the Russian delegation to the UN
Human Rights Commission in Geneva, Grigorii Lukyantsev, complained at
the body's latest session about a "new form of racism," ITAR-TASS
reported on 25 March. Lukyantsev said that xenophobia is also a problem
in democracies, and criticized "quiet discrimination" against ethnic
minorities in the name of "historical injustice." This was an implied
reference to the treatment of Russian minorities in Estonia and Latvia.
-- Peter Rutland

UKRAINIAN AIRCRAFT FORCED DOWN IN RUSSIA. Russian air defense detected
an incursion by a Ukrainian military aircraft into Russian territory on
24 March, ITAR-TASS reported the next day. The IL 76 aircraft was forced
to land at Rostov na Donu. A Russian General Staff spokesman described
the incident as a "grave violation of international agreements," since
he claimed no flight plan had been filed or prior authorization sought.
Ukraine is not a formal member of the unified CIS air defense system,
but it does participate on an informal basis, and is expected to sign an
agreement with the CIS on this subject in the near future. -- Peter
Rutland

DISPUTES OVER FISHING GROUNDS INTENSIFY. Russia and Japan failed to
agree on conditions for Japan's salmon and trout fishing in Russian
territorial waters near the southern Kuril Islands, Western agencies
reported on 23 March. The talks may resume in April. Russia is also
involved in disputes over fishing quotas in the Atlantic and North
Pacific. Russia challenges the International Commission on Fishing in
the Northwestern Atlantic's decision to cut its fishing quota from over
60% in 1995 (50-55,000 metric tons) to 24% this year. Meanwhile,
representatives of 400 Russian trawlers asked the government to cut
quotas for foreign vessels in the North Pacific, ITAR-TASS reported on
23 March. -- Natalia Gurushina

YELTSIN ISSUES DECREE ON HOUSING CONSTRUCTION. In another attempt to
stimulate the housing market, President Yeltsin issued a decree on 23
March instructing the government to prepare a federal program on
individual housing construction, ITAR-TASS reported. The aim of the
program, entitled "My Home," is to reduce the cost of one square meter
of living space to no more than double the average monthly per capita
income in a given region and to facilitate long-term credit for
construction projects. Yeltsin also urged the passage of legislation
exempting people building homes from housing taxes until loans are paid
off. Yeltsin issued a decree authorizing mortgage lending at the end of
February. -- Penny Morvant

UNEMPLOYMENT INCREASES SHARPLY IN FEBRUARY. The number of people
officially registered as unemployed with the Federal Employment Service
reached 2.57 million on 1 March after a 6.2% jump in February, Russian
agencies reported on 25 March. The registered unemployed now constitute
3.5% of the working population. The situation is worst in Ingushetiya
and Ivanovo Oblast, with registered unemployment rates of 23% and 13%,
respectively. According to Goskomstat, the total number of jobless at
the beginning of March was 6.24 million, or 8.5% of the country's
workforce. -- Penny Morvant

SUPREME COURT REINSTATES FIRED DEPUTY EDUCATION MINISTER. The Supreme
Court ruled on 12 March to reinstate a deputy education minister who was
sacked in October 1992, ITAR-TASS reported on 25 March. The court ruled
that the government's dismissal of Yevgenii Kurkin for alleged abuse of
office was unlawful and that he should be paid his salary for the past
two and a half years. According to Kurkin, the court cleared him of
suspicion that he used his office for commercial ends. -- Penny Morvant

BUY ONE, GET ONE FREE. Shopkeepers in Kamchatka have come up with a
novel way of getting around the new minimum price on imported vodka.
Since 12 March, the minimum price for a liter of vodka imported from
outside the CIS has been set at 40,000 rubles. ($8.25). Fearing that a
sudden price hike would lead to a sharp drop in vodka consumption,
traders in Kamchatka are handing out a free bottle with every liter
purchased at the new price of 40,000-50,000 rubles, ITAR-TASS reported.
This practice is likely to continue as long as old stocks last. -- Penny
Morvant

NAKHODKA FREE ECONOMIC ZONE GETS STATE SUPPORT. The Finance Ministry
will allocate $25 million annually for the development of the free
economic zone in Nakhodka, a port on the Sea of Japan port, Russian
Public TV (ORT) reported on 25 March. Japanese businesses have allocated
$81 million for the development of the free economic zone. President
Yeltsin on 11 March authorized the building of a Russian-Korean
industrial park in Nakhodka. -- Natalia Gurushina

RUSSIA AND THE U.S. REACH AGREEMENT ON POULTRY EXPORTS. Russia and the
U.S. have ended their dispute over chicken exports, ITAR-TASS reported
on 26 March. U.S. Vice President Al Gore's office announced that "Russia
recognized that the U.S. inspection system and the American poultry
itself are fully acceptable for the Russian market." Russia agreed to
allow any chicken shipments that left the U.S. before 20 March to enter
the country. The U.S. promised to modify its control procedures to
include joint spot inspections of poultry plants, and to impose
additional testing requirements on poultry producers. In 1995, exports
to Russia were worth $550 million and accounted for 33% of all U.S.
chicken exports. -- Natalia Gurushina

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

ILIESCU IN YEREVAN. Romanian President Ion Iliescu arrived in Yerevan on
25 March on the first leg of a tour of the Transcaucasus, Western and
Armenian agencies reported. Iliescu and his Armenian counterpart, Levon
Ter-Petrossyan, signed eight bilateral agreements on cooperation in
economic issues, tourism, air and freight transport, taxation, and
engineering, plus a consular agreement. The two leaders had signed a
bilateral treaty on friendship and cooperation when Ter-Petrossyan
visited Bucharest in September 1994. -- Liz Fuller

AKAYEV GRANTS LOCAL GOVERNORS MORE POWERS. Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev
on 23 March granted additional powers to the heads of local
administrations (akims), ITAR-TASS reported on 23 March. Akims will now
be able to suspend any decisions by local self-government bodies or
enterprises that contradict the decisions of the central authorities.
Any appointments to local bodies made by central authorities will now
require the approval of the akims, except for appointments to the posts
of judge, prosecutor, or state security agency heads. In addition, akims
will also carry greater personal responsibility for the "socioeconomic
development of the territory," prompt payment of pensions and wages, and
combating corruption. -- Bhavna Dave

KAZAKHSTAN BANS ENTRY OF "UNDESIRABLE" PEOPLE. Kazakhstani President
Nursultan Nazarbayev ordered a ban on all flights from the North
Caucasus to Kazakhstan until order is restored following what he
described as the "uncontrolled entry of foreigners" and "evil-doers"
into the country, according to a 21 March Kazakhstani TV report
monitored by the BBC. Nazarbayev told a meeting of the Kazakhstani
Security Council that Kazakhstan has recently taken in nearly 5,000
Chechens, who "break public order and commit crimes, instead of thanking
Kazakhstan." Relations between Kazakhs and Chechens have been tense,
particularly in the eastern and northern provinces. Although the
majority of the Chechens who were deported to Kazakhstan in 1944 have
returned to Chechnya, about 40,000 still remain in Kazakhstan. -- Bhavna
Dave

CAR PRODUCTION IN UZBEKISTAN. The South Korean Daewoo Corporation
officially opened a plant in Tashkent on 25 March, NCA reported. The
first products of the joint-venture will be vans, with cars scheduled
for regular production by July 1996. It is expected that the plant will
produce 30,000 cars and vans this year, with a full capacity production
rate of 200,000 vehicles per year. In addition, while 80% of the parts
are currently imported, the company plans to produce 70% of the parts
locally by  2000. Last year, the German company Daimler-Benz expanded
vehicle production at its Urgench plant. -- Roger Kangas

CENTRAL ASIAN LEADERS REACT TO BELARUS-RUSSIAN "MERGER." Central Asian
leaders have reacted negatively to the recent meeting of the Belarusian
and Russian presidents (see OMRI Daily Digest, 25 March 1996), Reuters
reported on 25 March. Kyrgyz presidential spokesman Kamil Bayalinov said
that his country would "never support" plans for political reunification
with Russia. Tajik presidential spokesman Zafar Saidov also rejected
full political unification if it compromises political sovereignty.
Kazakhstani First Deputy Prime Minister Nigmatzhan Isingarin called
Lukashenka's description of the pact "incomprehensible." Instead,
Isingarin promoted President Nursultan Nazarbayev's "Eurasian Union,"
and noted that Nazarbayev and Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev will be in
Moscow on 29 March for a summit on regional integration. There was no
immediate reaction from the Turkmen government. -- Roger Kangas

TAJIK OPPOSITION RELEASES NEW PUBLICATION. The Tajik opposition has
launched a weekly newspaper that will carry reports on political,
social, and cultural issues, as well as on the condition of Tajik
refugees living in northern Afghanistan, according to a 23 March Radio
Free Tajikistan broadcast monitored by the BBC. United Tajik Opposition
leader Said Abdullo Nuri contributed an article and gave an interview in
the first edition. -- 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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