Everyone knows it is much harder to turn word into deed than deed into word. - Maxim Gorky
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 62, Part I, 27 March 1996


New OMRI Analytical Briefs:
-  "Slovak Parliament Approves Law on the Protection of the Republic and
   Ratifies Treaty with Hungary," by Sharon Fisher
-  "Serbian Opposition Leader Attacked by State Media," by Stan Markotich

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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
IMF APPROVES RUSSIAN LOAN. As expected, the IMF's executive board
formally approved a $10.1 billion, three year Extended Fund Facility
loan to Russia on 26 March, Western agencies reported. Russia already
has $10.8 billion in outstanding IMF credits. In the past week, Russia
agreed to drop a proposal to raise import tariffs and to resume imports
of U.S. chicken--two issues that could have delayed the loan. The first
$340 million tranche could arrive before the end of this month. The
money will come at a crucial time, since the government is finding it
difficult to cover its yawning budget deficit by issuing securities. The
price of treasury bills collapsed 25% this week, pushing annual interest
rates to 120% and causing the cancellation of a $500 million
international bond float scheduled for 27 March. Three-month bills
issued now will have to be redeemed after the 16 June presidential
election, which partly explains investor wariness. -- Peter Rutland
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

RUSSIA

ZYUGANOV'S NEGATIVE RATINGS INCREASING. Communist leader Gennadii
Zyuganov's negative rating among those who have made up their mind in
the presidential campaign rose from 14% to 26% between January and
March, according to the latest VCIOM poll, Kuranty reported on 26 March.
The poll asked "Whom would you not like to see as president of Russia?"
It was finished before the 15 March Duma vote on restoring the Soviet
Union. Yeltsin's negative rating dropped from 43% to 39%. -- Robert
Orttung

COMMUNISTS PROPOSE LAW ON THE OPPOSITION. The Communist head of the Duma
committee on public associations, Viktor Zorkaltsev, has proposed a law
that would protect the rights of the opposition, Kommersant-Daily
reported on 26 March. The draft recognizes the opposition as "benefiting
society" and provides detailed protections for its activities, including
state funding and access to the media. The draft law would allow, for
the first time, the possibility of a "shadow cabinet" that could be
formed with the support of one-third of the Duma members and whose
leader could participate in government meetings. The paper speculates
that the law is either an attempt to insure the party's position in case
of defeat in the presidential election or an effort to present a more
moderate position to the voters. -- Robert Orttung

PRESIDENTIAL ADMINISTRATION APPOINTS NEW INFORMATION DIRECTOR. The
editor-in-chief of Rossiiskie vesti, Valerii Kurcher, has replaced
Sergei Nosovets as the head of the presidential administration's
information directorate, Segodnya reported on 26 March. Kurcher is
considered to have better contacts among democratic-minded journalists
and will be able to establish better relations with the non-communist
media during the campaign. -- Robert Orttung

RYABOV CALLS FOR LESS FREE AIR TIME FOR PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES. Central
Electoral Committee (TsIK) Chairman Nikolai Ryabov called for limiting
the free air-time allotted to presidential candidates on state
television (Russian Public TV, Russian TV, and St. Petersburg Channel 5)
from 30 to 10 minutes, ITAR-TASS reported on 26 March. Television
stations are still owed 50-60 billion rubles ($10-12 million) for the
air-time they were required to give electoral blocs competing in the
Duma elections, and there is no provision in the 1996 budget to pay for
TV time during the presidential campaign. The TsIK will issue media
guidelines by the end of March. -- Robert Orttung

RUSSIAN TV COMPROMISES WITH REGIONAL BROADCASTERS. Russian TV has signed
a deal with regional broadcasters to limit the amount of time they pre-
empt the national network in favor of local programming. Local
broadcasters will be able to show their material between 5:20 p.m. and
7:55 p.m. Currently, local broadcasters pre-empt much more time, Russian
TV quoted its chairman, Eduard Sagalaev, as saying on 26 March. The
agreement should also prevent local stations from pre-empting the free
air-time given to presidential candidates. -- Robert Orttung

STAGED WITHDRAWAL FROM CHECHNYA PLANNED. Russian Defense Minster Pavel
Grachev said on 26 March that "major combat operations in Chechnya will
cease" once President Boris Yeltsin announces his plan to settle the
conflict in Chechnya, Russian media reported. An unnamed source in the
General Staff said that two brigades of federal troops would remain--one
of Internal Troops and the army's 205th Motor-Rifle Brigade. Yeltsin is
expected to unveil his Chechnya peace plan on 31 March. -- Doug Clarke

OSCE REPORT CONDEMNS CONDUCT OF CHECHEN WAR. A new report by the head of
the OSCE mission in Grozny, Swiss diplomat Tim Guldimann, accuses the
Russian forces in Chechnya of waging "warfare against the civilian
population," NCA reported on 26 March. The report said Russian forces
engage in "wanton destruction and systematic looting," and extort money
from villages in return for not attacking them. The report also
condemned Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev's fighters for repeatedly
seizing civilian hostages. -- Peter Rutland

KEMEROVO LEADER MAY BE DEPRIVED OF PARLIAMENT MEMBERSHIP. The Kemerovo
Oblast administration has announced that the chairman of the oblast's
legislative assembly, Aman Tuleev, should be stripped of his seat in the
Federation Council, ITAR-TASS reported on 26 March. While Tuleev's term
in office, as well as that of the whole assembly, expires on 27 March,
the oblast Procurator's Office considers him to be a legitimate
representative in the Council after that date. He said he will stay on
in both his posts until the new oblast assembly is elected. The current
oblast legislature, however, failed to set a date for the next election.
Tuleev was number three on the Communist Party list in the December 1995
elections, but declined his seat in the Duma. -- Anna Paretskaya

BANNED MISSILES WOULD COUNTER NATO EXPANSION. In a 26 March meeting with
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Joseph Rotblat, Russian Nuclear Energy
Minister Viktor Mikhailov said that NATO's eastward expansion would
bring about "a revision of many agreements on cuts in nuclear arms."
ITAR-TASS added that two specialists from the Arzamas-16 nuclear
research center--Igor Andryushin and Aleksandr Chernyshev--issued a
statement warning that if NATO expands Russia will have to deploy
"nuclear air defense and sea-defense weapons on its western borders, as
well as tactical and operational missile systems, including the Pioner
[SS-20] and Oka [SS-23] systems." These two missiles were banned under
the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty. They also said
that Russia would refuse to sign a comprehensive nuclear test ban
treaty. -- Doug Clarke

UKRAINIAN PRIME MINISTER IN MOSCOW. Prime Minister Yevhen Marchuk met
with his Russian counterpart, Viktor Chernomyrdin, in Moscow on 26 March
to prepare for President Yeltsin's 4-5 April visit to Kyiv, Western
media reported. The Yeltsin visit is expected to see the signing of the
long awaited Ukrainian-Russian friendship treaty. The division of the
Black Sea fleet, in particular Russian leasing of shore base facilities,
remains the main outstanding issue, and will be discussed at a meeting
of Ukrainian and Russian defense ministers scheduled for 29 March.
Meanwhile, a voluntary organization called "300 years of the Russian
fleet" has launched a national campaign to raise money from banks and
businesses to pay for the completion of eight new military vessels,
including the cruiser Peter the Great, ITAR-TASS reported on 26 March.
-- Peter Rutland

CIS STATES' DEBT TO RUSSIA. Russian Minister for Cooperation with the
CIS States Valerii Serov noted on 26 March that the CIS states now owe
Russia $9 billion, Russian media reported. They repaid 1 trillion rubles
($200 million) in 1995, and are expected to pay 1.9 trillion rubles in
1996. The $1.4 billion owed by the Belarusian government and private
companies to Russia and the Russian natural gas company Gazprom will
probably be written off as part of the bilateral treaty to be signed on
2 April. Serov also advocated moving towards a single currency for CIS
countries, Reuters reported. The 29 March summit involving Russia,
Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan will likely address debt payment
scheduling. -- Roger Kangas

YELTSIN AND NORWEGIANS COMPROMISE ON ARRESTED ENVIRONMENTALIST.
President Boris Yeltsin said in Norway on 26 March that he and Norwegian
Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland had reached an understanding in the
treason case against the former Russian naval officer Alexander Nikitin,
Reuters reported. Nikitin, who worked for the Norwegian environmental
group Bellona, helped write a report on the Russian navy's nuclear
pollution in the Kola Peninsula which the Russian Federal Security
Service (FSB) said contained classified information. Yeltsin said that
Russia would drop its complaint against the Bellona organization, and
announced that Nikitin would be allowed to be defended by a lawyer of
his choice. The FSB had previously said that he must have an authorized
lawyer who was cleared for state secrets. The Russian Constitutional
Court was anyway due to rule on this issue on 27 March. In Oslo, more
than 1,000 Norwegians held a rally in support of Nikitin. -- Doug Clarke

AGRARIANS PICKET GOVERNMENT. About 1,000 agricultural workers from more
than 25 Russian regions picketed the federal government building in
Moscow on 26 March to protest the "anti-peasant policies" of the current
administration and demand more financial support for the farm sector.
They also called on the government not to allow the unrestricted sale of
land. According to ITAR-TASS, the protest was organized by the Union of
Agroindustrial Complex Workers; the Agrarian Union of Vasilii
Starodubtsev, one of the 1991 coup plotters; and the Coordinating
Council for Collective Actions of Agroindustrial Complex Workers.
Express-khronika reported that the organizers included the hardline
Working Russia movement and the Russian Communist Workers' Party. --
Penny Morvant

FORMER DEPUTY HEAD OF ST. PETERSBURG TV ARRESTED IN U.S. The FBI has
arrested Mikhail Syroezhin, a former deputy head of St. Petersburg TV,
on charges of swindling, theft, and money laundering, ITAR-TASS reported
on 26 March. His property, including a $300,000 yacht, has been seized.
Criminal charges were brought against Syroezhin in Russia in January
1995 when St. Petersburg TV (Channel 5) lost $1.87 million intended to
purchase equipment in the U.S. Syroezhin has denied embezzling the
funds. -- Penny Morvant

IVANOVO AIRPORT WORKERS ON HUNGER STRIKE. Ivanovo Airport has been
paralyzed by the technical staff's eight-day hunger strike, ITAR-TASS
reported on 25 March. The protesters are demanding the payment of wage
arrears, a program to rescue the aviation companies from their current
financial difficulties, and a change in management. Last year, air
traffic controllers at Ivanovo went on an 11-day hunger strike on
similar grounds. That protest ended when the oblast authorities paid
wage arrears, canceled debts to power suppliers, and exempted companies
from tax payments until the end of the year. Steps were also taken to
secure the repayment of debts from aviation companies in Moscow,
Krasnoyarsk, and Uzbekistan, but to date little of the debt has been
recovered. Ivanovo Oblast, which is dominated by the textile industry,
is one of Russia's most depressed regions. -- Penny Morvant

EMPLOYMENT SERVICE HEAD LAMENTS LACK OF FUNDS. A day after figures were
released showing a large jump in the number of registered unemployed in
February, Federal Employment Service head Fedor Prokopov told ITAR-TASS
that mandatory contributions to the Federal Employment Fund must be
raised. Prokopov criticized the Duma's decision to reduce the payroll
tax from 2% to 1.5%, saying that the move, the increase in the number of
unemployed, and the failure of indebted enterprises to pay contributions
had left the fund in dire financial straits. He also recommended that
the amount of contributions transferred by regional branches of the fund
to the federal body be raised from 20% to 50% to facilitate the
redistribution of money from prosperous areas to those where
unemployment is high. -- Penny Morvant

NASA URGES RUSSIA TO MEET ITS SPACE STATION OBLIGATIONS. NASA warned
Russia that it risks being excluded from the Alfa international space
station program if it fails to meet its financial obligations, NCA
reported on 27 March. NASA officials said that they will give Russia six
weeks to do so. The launch of the first service module for the Alfa
orbital station, manufactured by the Moscow-based Khrunichev space
center, is scheduled for November 1997. NASA is considering withdrawing
from the collaborative program because of the Russian Space Agency's
financial problems. -- Natalia Gurushina

LUKOIL AND ARCO SET UP JOINT VENTURE. Russia's largest oil concern
LUKoil and the U.S. Atlantic Richfield Co. (Arco) will form a new joint
venture in which LUKoil will have a 54% share, Western agencies reported
on 26 March. Arco will provide the venture with a 10-year $3 billion
credit. Last autumn, the U.S. company paid $250 million to acquire
LUKoil convertible bonds which can be exchanged for 6.3% equity stake in
the concern. Arco will also participate in the auction of a further $140
million of LUKoil bonds which will take place on 29 March. -- Natalia
Gurushina

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

TAJIK GOVERNMENT FORCES ATTACK TAVIL-DARA. Tajik government warplanes
pounded rebel positions in Tavil-Dara on 26 March, Reuters and NCA
reported. The rebels have occupied the Tavil-Dara region since last
October, but weather conditions had prevented planes from assisting
government ground forces in the area. UN Secretary-General Boutros
Boutros Ghali voiced concern over the fighting and called on both sides
to "comply strictly" with the ceasefire agreement. Ghali noted that more
than 600,000 people in areas of military conflict in the Central Asian
republic are in need of emergency food aid. He also confirmed that Ramon
Piriz Ballon, the UN special envoy to Tajikistan, will soon be replaced.
-- Bruce Pannier

RESULTS OF KYRGYZ HELICOPTER CRASH INVESTIGATION. Human error was to
blame for the October helicopter crash in Kyrgyzstan which claimed the
lives of 15 people, including nine Canadians, according to the Kyrgyz
state investigation commission, NCA reported. The helicopter was
carrying employees of the Kumtor mining operation who had been visiting
a gold mining site in the mountains of eastern Kyrgyzstan. The crew had
strayed from the approved flight path, and should have turned back
because of bad weather. -- Bruce Pannier

INCREASE IN MINIMUM PENSION IN KAZAKHSTAN. President Nursultan
Nazarbayev has decreed a 20% increase in the minimum pension to come
into effect on 1 April, ITAR-TASS reported on 26 March. The Ministry of
Social Welfare and oblast leaders have been told to use the Republic
Pension Fund to pay for the increase. The current minimum monthly
pension is 320 tenge ($5), with inflation running at about 20% a year.
-- 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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