Logic, n. The act of thinking and reasoning in strict accordance with the limitations and incapacities of the human understanding. - Ambrose Bierce
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 63, Part I, 28 March 1996


New OMRI Analytical Briefs:
-  "Crisis in Baltic Banking," by Michael Wyzan

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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
"THIRD FORCE" CANDIDATES ISSUE JOINT STATEMENT ON INTEGRATION.
Presidential candidates Aleksandr Lebed, Svyatoslav Fedorov, and
Grigorii Yavlinskii issued a joint statement calling for greater
economic integration of the countries making up the former Soviet Union
within the framework of the CIS, Russian media reported on 27 March. The
three politicians criticized attempts by both the Communist Party and
President Yeltsin to expand Russian influence among its neighbors as
discrediting the idea of integration. Earlier, they had called on the
Duma not to denounce the Belavezha accords. The issuing of these joint
statements suggests the increasing cohesion of a "third force" in the
presidential campaign: Yavlinskii had previously shunned all alliances.
-- Robert Orttung
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

RUSSIA

"THIRD FORCE" MAY USE PRIMARIES TO DETERMINE LEADER. The "Third Force"
may organize a poll of its supporters in the regions to determine which
of its three leaders will be the group's presidential candidate, ITAR-
TASS reported on 27 March, citing Konstantin Zatulin, a member of the
Congress of Russian Communities Council. According to Zatulin, Lebed is
in favor of the idea, Fedorov is leaning toward it, while Yavlinskii is
skeptical, fearing falsification of the results. Russia has not
previously seen anything resembling a party primary. -- Robert Orttung

NTV CHAIRMAN DEFENDS DECISION TO JOIN YELTSIN STAFF. Igor Malashenko,
president of the independent television station NTV, said his decision
to join President Yeltsin's re-election campaign staff will not affect
NTV's reporting, RFE/RL reported on 27 March. Observers had expressed
concern that Malashenko's decision might compromise the station's
editorial independence (see OMRI Daily Digest, 25 March 1996).
Malashenko said his decision is not tied to an attempt to secure
advantages for NTV, but he did say that he expects NTV to shortly
receive permission to broadcast 24 hours a day. At present, NTV
broadcasts about eight hours a day. -- Penny Morvant

ZYUGANOV DESCRIBES FOREIGN POLICY GOALS. Communist leader Gennadii
Zyuganov described his foreign policy goals as "extremely simple:
maximum openness both to the West and to the East but with active
support and protection for the internal market," ITAR-TASS reported 27
March. He also argued that "everything that is connected with the
territory of the former USSR falls within the area of our vital
interests." To back this claim, he noted the 25 million Russians living
in the non-Russian former Soviet republics who "have been thrown upon
the mercy of fate and are not receiving any support." Additionally,
Zyuganov said that he would not allow the buying and selling of farmland
should he come to power and that Yeltsin's approval of such policies is
"killing" state and collective farms. -- Robert Orttung

LUZHKOV OFFICIALLY ENTERS MAYORAL RACE. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov has
officially announced that he will run for re-election, Russian media
reported on 27 March. Luzhkov was endorsed for re-election by a group of
supporters on 13 March. Announcing his intention to stand for the 16
June mayoral poll, Luzhkov said that he cannot leave his job without
finishing it and "must be in a race." Earlier this week, the Duma
Communist Party faction announced that it might put forward a Communist
candidate for the Moscow mayoral race. Luzhkov is considered to be the
favorite. -- Anna Paretskaya

VOTE COUNTING SYSTEM WORKED WELL IN TATARSTAN. Experts from a Moscow
research institute who deal with implementing the new computerized vote
counting system Vybory (Elections) have concluded that the system
performed well in Tatarstan's 24 March presidential election, ITAR-TASS
reported on 27 March. Specialists say the system prevents electoral
fraud. Moreover, it completes the counting procedure within several
hours; the "final" preliminary results of the December Duma elections,
which were counted manually, were released eight days after the poll.
The Tatarstan election, it should be remembered, had only one candidate.
-- Anna Paretskaya

PREVENTIVE DIPLOMACY IN CHECHNYA. Representatives of fifteen Chechen
political parties and deputies to the parliament of the Confederation of
Peoples of the Caucasus (CPC) adopted an appeal to the peoples of the
North Caucasus at a conference in Urus-Martan on 27 March to prevent the
spread of hostilities in the North Caucasus, Radio Rossii reported.
Conference participants also agreed to put forward Chechen parliament
speaker Yusup Soslambekov as a candidate for president of the CPC at the
upcoming congress of peoples of the North Caucasus in Nalchik. Speaking
on local television on 27 March, Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev
condemned the individual peace agreements that more than 120 Chechen
villages have signed with Russian federal forces, AFP reported on 28
March. Russian troops resumed their artillery bombardment of Bamut on 27
March; fighting was also reported elsewhere in southern Chechnya and
along the border with Ingushetiya, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. --
Liz Fuller

REPORT ON INTERIOR MINISTRY CASUALTIES IN CHECHNYA. Figures released on
27 March indicate that the Interior Ministry's troops have suffered
considerable losses in Chechnya. Russian media quoted Lt. Gen. Anatolii
Shkirko, commander of the Internal Troops, as saying that 621 Interior
Ministry servicemen had been killed since the military campaign began in
December 1994. On 12 March, Radio Mayak quoted the first deputy
commander of the troops as saying that 423 internal troops had died and
another 157 were missing in action. Shkirko said that more than 23,000
of his men were currently deployed in Chechnya. According to an ITAR-
TASS report of 27 March, the establishment strength of the Internal
Troops is 272,000. The force has 29 divisions and 15 brigades in nine
okrugs. It has been facing severe financial difficulties, and morale is
low. -- Doug Clarke and Penny Morvant

CIS DEFENSE MINISTERS MEET TO INCREASE COOPERATION. Defense ministers or
their representatives from the CIS states, minus Moldova, met in Moscow
on 27 March, Russian media reported. NTV reported that the discussion
centered around the implementation of the joint CIS air defense system
that is to be launched on 1 April and has been signed by all of the CIS
states except Azerbaijan and Moldova. Other topics of discussion
included peacekeeping force policies and the financing of CIS collective
security measures. In addition, ITAR-TASS reported that the defense
ministers of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan prepared
documents that are to be signed at the 29 March summit of those
country's presidents. In an interview following the meeting, Russian
Defense Minister Pavel Grachev emphasized the need to coordinate defense
policies, especially in light of the expected NATO expansion. -- Roger
Kangas

COURT RULES DEFENDANTS CAN CHOOSE OWN LAWYERS. The Constitutional Court
ruled on 27 March that defendants charged under the Law on State Secrets
are entitled to choose their own lawyers, Russian and Western agencies
reported. The ruling followed complaints that the stipulation in the law
that defense lawyers in such cases must first obtain security clearance
was unconstitutional and gave the prosecution an unfair advantage. One
of the complainants was retired Navy Captain Aleksandr Nikitin, arrested
by the Federal Security Service in February on charges of treason in
connection with his work for the Norwegian environmental organization
Bellona. The ruling, which Bellona described as a major victory, came a
day after President Yeltsin promised Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem
Brundtland that Nikitin would be allowed to use his own lawyer. -- Penny
Morvant

FOUNDATION WANTS EURO-DOLLARS FOR KOMSOMOLETS SALVAGE. The European
Parliament's Committee on Petitions turned down a petition asking for
$12.5 million in EU funding to salvage the nuclear-armed torpedoes in
the sunken Russian nuclear submarine Komsomolets. According to a 26
March press release, the Belgium-based Komsomolets Foundation requested
the money because the Russians could no longer afford to salvage the
vessel. Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev was listed among the
foundation's backers. The committee criticized the petition for being
concerned solely with the weapons aboard the submarine rather than its
nuclear reactor. It did agreed to forward the petition to two other
committees in case they wished to pursue the matter. -- Doug Clarke

INTERIOR MINISTRY OFFICIAL DEFENDS DEATH PENALTY. First Deputy Interior
Minister Vladimir Kolesnikov said on 27 March that 53 people have been
executed in Russia in the past three years, the BBC reported, citing
Interfax. Kolesnikov said that 423 people were sentenced to death in
1980, 225 in 1986, and 160 in 1994, and that Russia has 69,500 prison
inmates convicted on charges of premeditated murder. He argued that
abolishing the death penalty--a condition of Russia's recent admission
to the Council of Europe--would be counterproductive and that Russia
lacks the funds to take such a step. -- Penny Morvant

NEW $100 BILLS APPEAR IN MOSCOW. At a joint press conference on 27
March, U.S. Ambassador Thomas Pickering and Central Bank Chairman Sergei
Dubinin said that the introduction of new $100 banknotes is proceeding
smoothly, ITAR-TASS reported. The first consignment of $60 million worth
of the new bills arrived in Moscow on 25 March, AFP reported. The U.S.
has spent $1 million on a publicity campaign reassuring Russians that
the old bills will still be legal tender. -- Peter Rutland

BANKRUPTCY DATA. Petr Mostovoi, head of the Federal Insolvency
Administration, told ITAR-TASS on 27 March that Russia has made decisive
strides toward financial stabilization. He also claimed that the
bankruptcy law is starting to work effectively. Ten firms declared
themselves insolvent in 1993, followed by 350 in 1994, and 1,103 in
1995. Following the recommendations of Mostovoi's agency, courts
declared 459 firms bankrupt over the past year. However, this is only a
small fraction of Russia's more than 40,000 firms; virtually no large-
sized enterprises have been declared bankrupt. -- Peter Rutland

MAJOR NEW OIL VENTURE BETWEEN SHELL AND EVIKHON. The Russian oil company
Evikhon and Royal Dutch/Shell's Russian subsidiary have agreed to set up
a joint venture to exploit the Salym oil fields, ITAR-TASS reported on
27 March. The Salym fields in Tyumen Oblast have recoverable oil
reserves of 139 million metric tons, and are expected to yield 6 million
metric tons annually by the year 2003. Over the next 25 years, up to $11
billion could be invested in the project. Evikhon was created to develop
the Salym fields in 1992: since then Evikhon and Shell have already
spent $100 million on exploratory work in Salym. Shell officials said
that the new venture's strategy in Russia will depend on the outcome of
the presidential election in June. -- Natalia Gurushina

RUSSIA TO SUPPLY NUCLEAR REACTORS TO CHINA. The Russian government will
provide China with a 15-year $2 billion loan at 4% interest to supply
Russian reactors to a new nuclear power station in northeast China,
Reuters reported on 27 March. The cost of the station, whose
construction will begin in 1998, is $4 billion. The agreement to buy
Russian reactors was signed during Prime Minister Li Peng's visit to
Moscow in June 1995. Chinese officials said that they chose Russian
reactors because they were 15-20% cheaper than Western ones. -- Natalia
Gurushina

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

PUBLICATION OF ARMENIAN NEWSPAPER SUSPENDED. A Yerevan court has banned
the daily newspaper Lragir for three months for the serialized
publication of an article advocating the annexation by Armenia of
predominantly Armenian-populated regions of southern Georgia,
Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 20 March. The paper's editor had ignored
a warning from the Armenian Justice Ministry not to continue publishing
the article after its first installment. -- Liz Fuller

PAKISTANI OFFICIALS ON TURKMEN GAS. According to unnamed officials in
Pakistan's Petroleum and Natural Resources Ministry, the U.S. firm
UNOCAL has submitted a pipeline project to move natural gas from
Turkmenistan's Dauletabad field to Pakistan via parts of Afghanistan
that are now held by the Taliban rebel movement, AFP reported on 28
March. The cost of the 1,271 km-long pipeline project is estimated at $3
billion. The Argentinean firm Bridas proposed a similar plan in the
past; last summer, the firm's president secured numerous promises from
Ashgabat, Islamabad, Kabul, and several combatants involved in the
Afghan civil war, only to see the deal unravel following renewed
fighting in Afghanistan. -- Lowell Bezanis

UNICEF CALLS FOR AID TO TAJIKISTAN. The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF)
launched a fundraising campaign for Tajikistan on 27 March with the aim
of collecting $5.6 million, Reuters and AFP reported. Speaking from the
Kazakhstani capital Almaty, UNICEF's Executive Director Carol Bellamy
said Tajikistan is coping "with the double burden of outright civil war
as well as economic restructuring." The money would go for medical
supplies, education, and clean water programs for women and children.
UNICEF reports show that infant mortality in Tajikistan is running at
more than 60 per 1,000 and that as many as 2 million children suffer
from respiratory and childhood diseases. -- Bruce Pannier

UZBEK PRESIDENT IN VIETNAM. Uzbek President Islam Karimov arrived in
Vietnam on 28 March to meet with President Le Duc Anh, Prime Minister Vo
Van Kiet, and Communist Party Secretary-General Do Muoi, ITAR-TASS
reported. The two sides signed several agreements on bilateral trade,
investment protection, and double taxation. Karimov is the first CIS
president to visit Vietnam since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.
-- Roger Kangas

[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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