The person who knows how to laugh at himself will never cease to be amused. - Shirley MacLaine
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 68, Part I, 4 April 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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
YELTSIN OFFICIALLY REGISTERS AS CANDIDATE. The Central Electoral
Commission on 3 April officially registered President Boris Yeltsin as a
candidate for the June election. Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov is
so far the only other candidate to have turned in the 1 million
signatures necessary for registration. Yeltsin filed papers showing that
his income for 1995 was 27 million rubles ($5,600), down from 552
million rubles in 1994. Most of the 1994 income came from an honorarium
for the publication of his book in Great Britain. Yeltsin kicked off his
campaign by leaving for Belgorod where he said he will visit as "both
the president and a presidential candidate," ITAR-TASS reported. --
Robert Orttung
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

RUSSIA

DEMOCRATIC RUSSIA LEADERS BACK YELTSIN. Democratic Russia co-chairmen
Lev Ponomarev and Gleb Yakunin announced their support for Yeltsin's
candidacy on 3 April as individuals and called on their party to do the
same, Russian TV reported. Ponomarev favors Yeltsin over Yabloko leader
Grigorii Yavlinskii because he believes that a "democrat" cannot win in
today's Russia and Yeltsin's experience guarantees stability. While the
pro-reform camp remains divided, Duma member Petr Romanov withdrew his
presidential bid in favor of Zyuganov, NTV reported. -- Robert Orttung

MILITARY LEADERSHIP MANEUVERS IN PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN. The political
preferences of the Russian top brass can be divided into five factions:
pro-Yeltsin; neutral; anti-Grachev; openly oppositional; and pro-
Grachev; according to a 40-page document reportedly prepared by military
experts for Communist presidential candidate Gennadii Zyuganov and cited
in the 31 March-7 April issue of Moskovskie novosti. The pro-Yeltsin
faction, led by First Deputy Defense Minister Andrei Kokoshin, is
allegedly seeking the electoral support of lower-ranking officers by
promising promotions and advancement if the president is re-elected.
Many top brass--led by General Mikhail Kolesnikov, chief of the general
staff--remain neutral in the hope of retaining their posts no matter who
wins the election. A January poll of military personnel cited in the
article gave Zyuganov 22% support, followed by Vladimir Zhirinovsky with
18%. Yeltsin lagged with only 4%. -- Scott Parrish

DUMA TO CONSIDER LOWERING THE VOTING AGE. Liberal Democratic Party
(LDPR) member Aleksei Mitrofanov will soon propose that the Duma lower
the voting age from 18 to 16, Ekho Moskvy reported on 3 April. The move
is a clear attempt to boost Yeltsin's electoral prospects since he has
much broader support among the young, while Communist voters tend to be
older. Younger voters, however, have much lower turnout figures. --
Robert Orttung

DUMA FAILS TO ADOPT LAW ON HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSIONER. The Duma failed in
its seventh attempt to pass a law on the human rights commissioner on 3
April. The law needs 300 votes for adoption, but the body was more than
40 short because the Regions of Russia faction supports naming the
commissioner at the same time as the law is adopted, Russian Public TV
(ORT) reported. LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky pointed out that the
commissioner can be named with a 226 majority, which would give the
Communists the strong possibility of naming their candidate without the
consent of other parties. All members of the Council of Europe are
required to have such a law. -- Robert Orttung

BOMBING CONTINUES IN CHECHNYA. The village of Shalazhi in southwest
Chechnya was subject to aerial bombardment during the night of 2-3 April
although village elders had signed a peace pact with Russian commanders
on 2 April, Reuters reported on 3 April. A spokesman for the Russian
military denied that Russian planes were responsible. The village of
Bamut in southern Chechnya was similarly subjected to artillery fire,
and other villages in Vedeno Raion were surrounded by Russian troops in
direct contravention of President Yeltsin's assurance that hostilities
would cease at midnight on 31 March. -- Liz Fuller

LEBED ON CHECHNYA. Aleksandr Lebed accused President Yeltsin of
"betraying" the soldiers in Chechnya, in an article he published in
Nezavisimaya gazeta on 3 April. He said Yeltsin erred in launching the
recent wave of attacks, in which "hundreds" of Russian troops were
killed, only to sue for peace days later. He said that this stop-and-go
policy was reminiscent of the fighting last spring. He urged Yeltsin to
push on for the military victory that he considers to be "very close."
Lebed said that "doubts can exist only before the beginning of a
war...We are fighting not so much for a specific territory but for
Russia's national dignity. Russia must announce to the world that it
will never again retreat." -- Peter Rutland

550 FEDERAL TROOPS MISSING OR HOSTAGE IN CHECHNYA. An official of the
presidential commission for prisoners-or-war, internees, and missing-in-
action has reported that 550 federal servicemen are missing or held
hostage in Chechnya, Russian media reported on 3 April. The head of the
temporary working group searching for these men was said to have told
the State Duma the previous day that this number includes 468 soldiers,
70 officers, and 12 warrant officers of the Russian army, the Internal
Troops, and the Federal Border Service. Another official revealed that
41 Russian servicemen had been exchanged for Chechen separatists in the
past two months. -- Doug Clarke

DUMA ENDORSES RUSSO-BELARUSIAN COMMUNITY. The State Duma adopted a
resolution "welcoming" the agreement forming the Russo-Belarusian
Community, Russian media reported. The resolution, sponsored by the
Popular Power and Agrarian factions, called on the other members of the
CIS to support Russo-Belarusian integration, ITAR-TASS reported. The
agreement is scheduled for a ratification vote in the Duma on 5 April.
The Yabloko faction, however, released a statement criticizing the
agreement, which it said "created a national structure with an undefined
status." Finansovye izvestiya on 4 April questioned the feasibility and
economic rationale of integration with Belarus, echoing several other
major Russian dailies that describe the agreement as a purely political
maneuver. -- Scott Parrish

EU, U.S. TO HELP RUSSIA PREVENT SMUGGLING OF NUCLEAR MATERIAL. The EU
and the U.S. are planning to help train Russian experts in Western
methods of accounting for the nuclear material used to build atomic
weapons, Reuters reported on 3 April. The Russian Methodological and
Training Center will be established later this year in Obninsk, near
Moscow. The European Commission said the center will train hundreds of
Russian experts in an effort "to help develop a true safety culture that
will be a key element in the program to tighten monitoring and control
of nuclear materials in the former Soviet Union." The program is the
result of a meeting of nuclear experts from the EU, U.S., and Russia to
prepare for the Moscow G-7 summit on nuclear safety later this month. --
Doug Clarke

RUSSIAN, POLISH DEFENSE MINISTERS DISCUSS COOPERATION. Russian Defense
Minister Pavel Grachev and his Polish counterpart, Stanislaw Dobrzanski,
met in Moscow on 3 April, Russian and Western media reported. Grachev
hailed the prospect of improved defense cooperation between the two
countries and announced that several joint military exercises would be
held this year. He also said that the Polish minister had expressed
interest in buying Russian military equipment and spare parts while
offering to repair Russian warships in Polish shipyards. The two agreed
to form a joint group of experts to draft a formal treaty on military
cooperation but remained divided over NATO's eastward expansion. -- Doug
Clarke

MAFIA BOSSES ARRESTED. Police arrested 25 suspected criminal bosses of
Caucasian nationality in a 3 April raid of a Moscow apartment where the
group was meeting to allocate business, ITAR-TASS reported on 3 April.
They included Georgian Otari Kvaratskhelia, a leading "thief in law"
(members of the informal criminal elite). According to an official at
the Butyrka prison, due to threats or bribes only one of 14 "thieves in
law" arrested over the past two years has actually been taken to court.
-- Peter Rutland

AID FOR PRISONERS. Leonid Brezhnev's son in law, Yurii Churbanov, has
donated 500 mattresses and pillows to Moscow 's Butyrka prison, ITAR-
TASS reported on 3 April. Churbanov, a former deputy interior minister,
was incarcerated for several years in the 1980s after being convicted of
corruption. The governor of Butyrka, Aleksandr Volkov, told a press
conference that Moscow prisons owe suppliers 19 billion rubles ($4
million) and are finding it difficult to provide adequate food and
medicine. "Unfortunately," commented Volkov, "the so-called `new
Russians'" think about these things only when they find themselves
behind bars." Moscow intends to build a seventh holding prison for
suspects awaiting trial, since the existing jails are overcrowded, with
an average floor space of one meter per inmate. -- Peter Rutland

LET THEM EAT CAKE. Dismissing rumors of a flour shortage, the director
of Mosgorkhlebprodukt, Yevgenii Strelkov, assured Moscow residents that
the city's bakeries will make available 700 tons of traditional Easter
pastries, ITAR-TASS reported on 3 April. The same day, the Moscow City
Duma approved its 1996 budget. The new budget, like that for 1995, will
not run a deficit. Revenue and spending are each set at 47 trillion
rubles ($9.7 billion), including 7 trillion rubles for housing
construction. Mayor Yurii Luzhkov is up for re-election in June, and is
expected to secure an easy victory. Most Muscovites seem to regard
Luzhkov as an effective city manager. -- Peter Rutland

NEW REGULATIONS ON BANKS' RESERVE FUNDS. The Central Bank has reduced
the size of commercial banks' compulsory reserves from 20% to 18% of
their total deposits starting on 1 May, Segodnya and Kommersant-Daily
reported on 3 April. The bank also decided to cut the size of the banks'
foreign currency reserves. At present, commercial bank reserves
deposited at the Central Bank total 21 trillion rubles ($4.3 billion).
The step is designed to alleviate the liquidity squeeze that many banks
are currently experiencing. -- Natalia Gurushina

FOREIGN TRADE TURNOVER GREW IN JANUARY. Russia's foreign trade turnover
totaled $9.2 billion in January, a 10% increase over the same period in
1995, Segodnya reported on 3 April. Exports grew by 7% to $5.9 billion,
with a 17% increase in exports to CIS countries ($1.2 billion). Exports
to the rest of the world ($4.7 billion) went up by 5%. There were no
major changes in the structure of exports, consisting mostly of oil,
gas, and metals. The existence of the ruble corridor zone continues to
boost Russia's imports, which surged by 14% to $3.3 billion. However,
there was a 13% drop in imports from non-CIS countries ($1.9 billion),
while imports from the CIS region rose by more than 200% to $1.4
billion. -- Natalia Gurushina

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

JAPAN INCREASES ITS SHARE IN CASPIAN OIL CONSORTIUM. Japan's Itochu Oil
Exploration Company on 3 April acquired Pennzoil's 9.8% stake in the
consortium formed to exploit three Azerbaijani Caspian oil fields, ITAR-
TASS reported. The acquisition follows Itochu's March 1996 purchase of
the U.S. oil company McDermott's 2.5% share in the oil consortium.
Itochu is the largest Japanese investor in Azerbaijan, and now has the
third largest share in the consortium after BP and Amoco, who each have
17% stakes. -- Liz Fuller

KAZAKHS FREE TO DROP RUSSIAN ENDINGS IN THEIR LAST NAMES. President
Nursultan Nazarbayev has decreed that Kazakhs will be permitted to drop
the customary Russian suffixes in their last names and write them in
accordance with Kazakh cultural and linguistic traditions, ITAR-TASS
reported on 4 April. In place of Russian suffixes such as "yev/ov" or
"yeva/ova," Kazakhs are now free to use the Kazakh language equivalents
"uli/kizi" for their last names. (For example, Suleymenov or Suleymenova
can now be written as Suleymenuli or Suleymenkizi). The changes can be
requested upon the issue of new Kazakhstani passports or other personal
identification documents. -- Bhavna Dave

KAZAKHSTANI FOREIGN MINISTER IN IRAN. Kazakhstani Foreign Minister
Kasymzhomart Tokayev, on a three-day visit to Iran, discussed bilateral
cooperation in oil and transportation with his Iranian counterpart, Ali
Akbar Velayati, Russian and Western media reported on 4 April. Tokayev
is in Tehran to prepare for President Nazarbayev's scheduled visit to
Iran in May, when he will participate in the inauguration of the new 296
km long Tajan-Sarakhs-Mashad railroad, connecting northern Iran with
Turkmenistan. Tokayev said the new "connection-line" between Central
Asia and the Middle East will boost regional trade. They also discussed
constructing ports on the Caspian Sea to facilitate the transport of
Kazakhstan's oil to Iran. -- Bhavna Dave

NATO APPROVES PROGRAM FOR KYRGYZSTAN. During his one-day visit to
Kyrgyzstan, U.S. Ambassador to NATO Robert Hunter gave President Askar
Akayev formal NATO approval of an individual "Partnership for Peace"
program for Kyrgyzstan, RFE/RL reported on 3 April. All former Soviet
republics, with the exception of Tajikistan, have enrolled in this
program, which envisages cooperation on non-military issues such as
natural disasters and environmental protection. Akayev and Hunter also
discussed a scheduled June seminar in Bishkek that will focus on dealing
with emergency situations. -- Bhavna Dave

FUROR OVER JOURNALIST'S SLAYING IN DUSHANBE. Reactions to the 28 March
murder of Russian Public TV (ORT) journalist Viktor Nikulin continue to
register in Tajikistan, Russian sources reported on 2 April. Both Tajik
government and opposition officials condemned the killing and deny any
involvement. The government has pledged to solve the crime. Fellow
journalists, however, are skeptical, as no case of a journalist being
killed in Tajikistan has been solved, ITAR-TASS reported on 2 April. As
a sign of protest and memorial, all independent newspapers will cease
publishing for a week beginning on 5 April. Nikulin's father, Mikhail
Nikulin, has reportedly received death threats from the anti-government
opposition, a charge the opposition flatly denies. -- 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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