We are all apt to believe what the world believes about us. - George Eliot
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 76, Part I, 17 April 1996


New OMRI Analytical Briefs:
- "Leading Candidates in Russian Presidential Elections Seek to Identify
  Themselves with Orthodoxy," by Penny Morvant
- "Turkey's Prime Minister in Baku," by Lowell Bezanis and Liz Fuller

Available on the World Wide Web:
http://www.omri.cz/Publications/Analytical/Index.html

This is Part I of the Open Media Research Institute's Daily Digest.
Part I is a compilation of news concerning Russia, Transcaucasia and
Central Asia. Part II, covering Central, Eastern, and Southeastern
Europe is distributed simultaneously as a second document. Back issues
of the Daily Digest, and other information about OMRI, are available
through OMRI's WWW pages: http://www.omri.cz/Index.html

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^TODAY'S TOP STORY^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
DUMA PASSES LAW ON ELECTION MONITORING. The Duma on 17 April passed a
bill on election monitoring aimed at strengthening oversight of all
federal, regional, and local elections, ITAR-TASS reported. Article 6 of
the bill provides for recounting a randomly chosen sample of 2% of the
precincts within a district. If any errors are found, the new law would
trigger further recounts. The bill also allows ordinary citizens to
monitor the elections, whereas under existing law only party and
candidate representatives have this right. Additionally, the bill allows
monitors to watch the work of the territorial electoral committees,
which summarize results coming in from the precincts and are thought to
be responsible for falsifying vote totals. There is considerable
evidence that the 1993 Duma elections and referendum to ratify the
constitution were falsified and widespread suspicion that Yeltsin will
alter results to prevent a Communist victory. -- Robert Orttung
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

RUSSIA

DUMA APPROVES LAW ON HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSIONER. In a 303-2 vote with one
abstention, the Duma finally approved the constitutional law on the
Russian Federation human rights commissioner, first submitted to the
Duma in July 1994, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 April. The bill had been
blocked by deputies from the Liberal Democratic Party and the Russian
Regions faction, who disagreed with the provisions on the appointment of
the commissioner. Consensus was finally reached after amendments were
introduced stipulating that each nominee for the post must be approved
by a two-thirds majority and that the successful candidate must also win
the support of two-thirds of the deputies in the final, secret ballot.
The commissioner will have the right to demand information from
government organs to review complaints about human rights violations. --
Penny Morvant

HECKLERS GREET YELTSIN IN KRASNODAR. President Boris Yeltsin got a mixed
response in Krasnodar 16 April during his second campaign swing since
becoming an official candidate. One veteran told him that he was too old
to run and "had done a lot of evil to the people," Reuters reported.
Some groups chanted "put Yeltsin and his band on trial." The president
was not cowed by the protests, however, and announced new state
handouts, promising veterans that he would increase their pension 125%
within a month, Radio Mayak reported. The president also pledged greater
benefits for the Cossacks, and announced his intention to sign decrees
stimulating the economic development of Krasnodar Krai and Russia's
agro-industrial complex, Rossiiskie vesti reported on 17 April. On
foreign affairs, he said building closer links with the CIS should be
the primary policy focus, and characterized the Black Sea Fleet, partly
based in Krasnodar Krai, as an "indispensable element of Russian
strategic security." -- Robert Orttung and Scott Parrish

LUKOIL HEAD BACKS YELTSIN. Vagit Alekperov, the head of LUKoil, Russia's
largest oil company, announced that he would back Yeltsin in the
presidential campaign, saying that he was alarmed by talk of
nationalizing his firm, AFP reported 16 April. Although Americans own
16% of the company's shares, the share price has frozen around $5,
because of fears of a Communist victory, he said. Formed in 1993, LUKoil
produced 20% of all Russian oil in 1995 and signed a major deal with
ARCO last month that includes a $3 billion loan. Alekperov is considered
the second most influential industrialist in Russia, following Rem
Vyakhirev, the head of Gazprom, who is also backing Yeltsin. -- Robert
Orttung

DEADLINE FOR PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES EXPIRES. Voter initiative groups
supporting 78 different would-be presidential candidates sprang up in
Russia this year, but only 17 of them managed to submit petitions with
at least 1 million signatures to the Central Electoral Commission (TsIK)
before the 16 April deadline expired, Russian and Western media
reported. The TsIK has already registered Gennadii Zyuganov, Boris
Yeltsin, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, and Mikhail Gorbachev for the ballot. It
refused registration to two little-known candidates, Vladimir Bryntsalov
and Martin Shakkum, on technical grounds. The commission must review
lists submitted by the remaining 11 candidates within the next 10 days.
-- Laura Belin

ZYUGANOV SERVES UP MIXED MESSAGES ON CAMPAIGN TRAIL. As Yeltsin's camp
continued its attempts to portray its main rival Gennadii Zyuganov as a
dangerous extremist, the Communist Party leader spoke cautiously in
Bashkortostan's capital city of Ufa, portraying himself as a reasonable
alternative to the current regime. Zyuganov told local officials that
"reform is essential" and "we cannot go back," Reuters reported on 16
April. He characterized economic reforms as "irreversible" but said
communists would carry them out by different means. Zyuganov also
assured local officials that he respects their "sovereignty" or
autonomous powers granted in recent years to ethnically-defined
republics like Bashkortostan. At the same time, he argued that a
"centralized economy" would benefit the development of both Russia and
Bashkortostan. -- Laura Belin

COMMUNIST DEPUTY PROMISES TO DEVELOP ECONOMIC POLICY THROUGH "SOCIAL
PARTNERSHIP." Communist Party member Yurii Maslyukov, the chairman of
the Duma Economic Policy Committee, also struck a conciliatory tone in
an interview published in Pravda on 17 April. Maslyukov stressed the
importance of building a "social partnership" of three forces--the
state, employers, and trade unions--to find a "common point of view" on
economic questions. He criticized the current government for not seeking
consensus on economic policy. Maslyukov called for the state to manage
its "natural monopolies" more effectively and said his committee would
focus on finding ways to increase production, not just in the energy
sector but in all branches of industry. -- Laura Belin

DUDAEV PROPOSES DEMIREL AS MEDIATOR. Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev
has suggested that in addition to Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev, a
senior Muslim statesman such as Turkish President Suleyman Demirel could
also act as a mediator between himself and President Boris Yeltsin,
Russian media reported on 16 April. A senior Russian Foreign Ministry
official said Russia would have no objections to Turkish mediation, AFP
reported, citing Interfax. Various Russian agencies, including the
Foreign Intelligence Service and the Foreign Ministry, have repeatedly
accused the Turkish authorities of supporting Dudaev; Turkey has
consistently denied these charges. Also on 16 April, Ekho Moskvy quoted
Yeltsin as saying he would never agree to direct talks with Dudaev whom
he termed "a bandit." -- Liz Fuller

CHECHNYA OVERSHADOWS TURKO-RUSSIAN ECONOMIC RELATIONS. Russia is
allegedly holding up payment of its debts to Turkish contractors due to
its displeasure with Turkey's Chechnya policy, Yeni Yuzyil reported on
16 April. The total sum owed was not cited by the paper. Officially,
Russia attributes non-payment to a lack of money; unofficially
nonpayment is attributed to Turkish provocations in Chechnya. The matter
is likely to be taken up by Turkish Energy Minister Husnu Dogan when he
arrives in Moscow for two days of talks on 17 April. Turkish contractors
have $6 billion worth of contracts in Russia. -- Lowell Bezanis

MAJOR GAS PIPELINE BLOWN UP IN DAGESTAN. Two explosions destroyed a 450-
meter stretch of the Mozdok-Kazimagomed pipeline near Pervomaiskoe in
Dagestan on 15 April, the Russian Emergencies Ministry announced the
following day. ITAR-TASS reported that it was the third such explosion
on the pipeline since the beginning of the year, and cited experts as
concluding that it was the work of Chechen rebels. -- Penny Morvant

RUSSIA CRITICAL OF U.S. PROPOSAL FOR KOREAN TALKS. Foreign Ministry
spokesman Mikhail Demurin criticized U.S. President Bill Clinton for
proposing multilateral negotiations on Korea that exclude Russia, ITAR-
TASS reported on 16 April. Clinton had proposed discussing recent
tensions between North and South Korea at quadripartite talks between
the two Koreas, China, and the U.S. Demurin said Russia favors calling
an international conference involving "all interested parties" to
discuss the creation of a new security regime on the Korean peninsula.
Demurin's comments indicate that Moscow wants to avoid being
marginalized in the formulation of a future Korean settlement, as
happened in the Middle East and the former Yugoslavia. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIA URGES ISRAEL TO END ATTACKS IN LEBANON. Russia urged Israel to
end its attacks on Hezbollah guerrilla positions in Lebanon, Russian and
Western agencies reported on 17 April. Foreign Ministry spokesman
Mikhail Demurin condemned Hezbollah attacks on Israel but termed the
Israeli response "disproportionate" and "counterproductive," suggesting
that it could threaten the Middle East peace process. He added that
Russia views the developing situation in Lebanon "with growing alarm."
Meanwhile, Deputy Foreign Minister Viktor Posavlyuk met in Moscow with
both the Israeli and Lebanese ambassadors, and Demurin said the upcoming
Moscow visit of Syrian Foreign Minister Farouq al-Shara would focus on
the Lebanon situation. Russia has been more critical than other major
powers of the recent Israeli offensive in Lebanon. -- Scott Parrish

U.S. OFFICIALS SAY URALS PROJECT IS DEFENSIVE. Clinton administration
officials declared on 17 April that the large underground military
complex under construction in Bashkortostan would not hinder U.S.
disarmament aid to Russia, Western agencies reported (see OMRI Daily
Digest, 16 April 1996). White House spokesman Brian Cullins admitted
that the purpose of the facility is "unclear," except that it is
"military in a broad sense." But he added that doubts about it would not
prevent President Bill Clinton from recommending that disarmament aid to
Russia under the Nunn-Lugar program continue. Defense Department
officials suggested that the project is "defensive" in nature. -- Scott
Parrish

RADIOACTIVE RODS DISCOVERED IN MOSCOW REGION. The Emergencies Ministry
announced on 16 April that an unauthorized radioactive waste dump has
been discovered in the hamlet of Glazynino in Moscow Oblast, ITAR-TASS
reported. Rods discovered at the site emit radiation levels up to 1,600
microroentgens an hour (over 100 times the normal level). AFP, citing a
television report, said that the dump was uncovered by a local man using
a radiation detector and that the rods and boxes they came in had been
used by local people for various purposes. -- Penny Morvant

AIOC CRASH MAY COST RUSSIAN BANKS $70 MILLION. Russian banks and
companies that financed the activities of the U.S. commodities trading
company AIOC in Russia may lose up to $70 million following its
collapse, ITAR-TASS reported on 16 April. The company conducted
operations on the metals market and began its activities in Russia,
Kazakhstan, and Ukraine in the mid-1980s. Its Moscow office, which used
to employ 200 people, was closed on 15 April. AIOC reportedly suffered
losses of more than $22 million following a sharp drop in the price of
ferrochrome. -- Natalia Gurushina

YELTSIN ISSUES DECREE TO SUPPORT AGRO-COMPLEX. President Yeltsin signed
on 16 April a decree on measures to stabilize the economic situation in
the agro-industrial complex, ITAR-TASS reported. The decree covers all
agricultural producers regardless of their organizational or ownership
structure. It stipulates that the government will write off all farm
debts (see OMRI Daily Digest, 15 April 1996), set up lower electricity
fees starting from 1 May, give farms a 5.1 trillion ruble ($1.04
billion) commodity credit, and allocate another 800 billion rubles to
individual farmers for land purchases. -- Natalia Gurushina

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

GAZIEV EXTRADITED TO BAKU. Former Azerbaijani Defense Minister Rahim
Gaziev, who was arrested on 14 April in Moscow where he has been living
in exile since escaping from detention in Azerbaijan in September 1994,
was extradited on 16 April to Baku where he has been sentenced to death
in absentia on charges of treason, Turan and Radio Mayak reported. The
Russian procurator-general has asked the Azerbaijani authorities to
provide evidence to support similar charges brought against former
President Ayaz Mutalibov, who was hospitalized after his arrest in
Moscow on 11 April with high blood pressure, Turan reported. Amnesty
International has expressed concern that the two men "will be in grave
danger of violation of their human rights" if they are handed over to
the Azerbaijani authorities. -- Liz Fuller

YILMAZ MEETS WITH MESKHETIANS. During his recent two-day visit to Baku,
Turkish Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz met with representatives of the
Meskhetian community in Azerbaijan, Turan reported on 16 April. Some
Meskhetians have been lobbying for years for permission to return to
those areas of southwestern Georgia from which they were deported in
1944; others wish to emigrate to Turkey. The chairman of the Meskhetian
community, Khalid Tashtanov, asked for Yilmaz's help, together with that
of Russia and Georgia, in resolving the issue of the Meskhetians'
repatriation. -- Liz Fuller

TAJIK GOVERNMENT, OPPOSITION AGREE TO RESUME PEACE TALKS. The Tajik
government and opposition have expressed their readiness to begin a new
round of UN-mediated peace talks, according to ITAR-TASS and RFE/RL
reports of 15 and 16 April. Tajik Foreign Minister Talbak Nazarov told
ITAR-TASS on 15 April that peace talks had been suspended due to the
UN's failure to appoint a successor to its peace envoy Ramiro Piriz
Ballon, who was transferred to a new position. Ali Akbar Turajonzoda,
the leader of the Tajik opposition delegation, told RFE/RL that his
party has reconsidered its views and supports a dialogue with the
government, urging the UN to nominate a new envoy this week. -- Bhavna
Dave

TURAJONZODA ON RUSSIA. Recent remarks by Islamic Renaissance Party (IRP)
Deputy Chairman Akbar Turajonzoda may shed light on Dushanbe's relations
with Moscow, Tashkent, Bishkek, and Almaty. In a 12 April broadcast of
the opposition Voice of Free Tajikistan monitored by the BBC, he accused
the government of selling off the country's "best enterprises, power
stations, and natural resources" in a bid to curry favor with Moscow,
and claimed that the deployment of increasing numbers of Russian troops
in the republic is disturbing Central Asia's leaders. He alleged that
relations between Uzbek President Islam Karimov and the Dushanbe
leadership have been particularly strained of late over the troop
deployments which Turajonzoda said could be used in the future to
restore a "great Russia." -- Lowell Bezanis

[As of 12:00 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez

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