We are always the same age inside. - Gertrude Stein
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 77, Part I, 18 April 1996


New OMRI Analytical Briefs:
- "Tajikistan's Grim Anniversary," by Bruce Pannier
- "Turco-Israeli Accord Aggravates Regional Tensions," by Lowell Bezanis

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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
TsIK DENOUNCES MONITORING LAW. Central Electoral Commission (TsIK)
Deputy Chairman Aleksandr Ivanchenko denounced the law on election
monitoring that the Duma passed on 17 April, saying that if it is
approved by the upper house and signed by the president, "it will
disorganize the presidential campaign," NTV reported. He rejected the
possibility of falsification, arguing that politicians only use this
term when "they feel their chances of winning are not great." The TsIK
has consistently rebuffed any attempts to increase societal oversight of
its activities, fanning already deeply-ingrained suspicion about its
work. The Supreme Court announced on 17 April that it would reinstate
its decision to force the TsIK to register the candidacy of Duma member
Vladimir Bryntsalov. Ivanchenko also announced that the TsIK would
investigate the Yeltsin and Zyuganov campaigns because they are
allegedly breaking the law by using state workers to seek votes. --
Robert Orttung
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

RUSSIA

DUMA SEEKS INVESTIGATION OF PARTISAN MILITARY UNITS. The Duma on 17
April asked the procurator general to look into reports that some
political parties have created armed units, NTV reported. Russia's
Democratic Choice member Sergei Yushenkov pressed for the inquiry,
citing Russian media reports that the Communist Party has 200 armed
fighters. Moskovskii komsomolets on 12 April reported that the
Communists have 2,000 fighters in Moscow and other forces available
outside the capital. -- Robert Orttung

YELTSIN COURTS COSSACKS. Declaring that Cossacks "will defend the
borders and interest of Russia" as in Tsarist times, President Yeltsin
on 17 April revealed that he had signed decrees to strengthen the legal
provisions for their revival, ITAR-TASS reported. Speaking to a resident
of Budennovsk, the site of last year's terrorist attack by Chechen
separatists, Yeltsin noted that 300,000 Cossacks live in the North
Caucasus. One of the decrees deals with Cossack participation in the
civil service, and especially in the Federal Border Guard Service.
Another deals with the economic and other benefits that would reward
such service, such as free plots of land in border areas, interest-free
loans, and tax benefits. -- Doug Clarke

MORE NEGATIVE MEDIA COVERAGE OF ZYUGANOV. As Communist Party leader
Gennadii Zyuganov campaigned in the large Urals city of Chelyabinsk on
17 April, coverage on both NTV and Russian TV called attention to the
fact that Zyuganov was turned away from speaking at a factory where
Yeltsin recently appeared. However, neither network reported the
allegations of local Communists, carried by Reuters, that the factory
officials were under pressure from Yeltsin's camp not to receive
Zyuganov because they are seeking tax breaks. Few excerpts from
Zyuganov's speeches in Chelyabinsk were shown on television, while
Yeltsin's visit to Budennovsk on the same day was given extensive
coverage. Almost all Moscow-based newspapers reveal an anti-communist
bias in election coverage as well, with the exception of openly
opposition newspapers such as Sovetskaya Rossiya, Pravda, and Zavtra. --
Laura Belin

SVERDLOVSK RESULTS GOOD OR BAD NEWS FOR YELTSIN? Most Russian
commentators viewed the results of the 14 April regional elections in
Sverdlovsk Oblast as good news for President Yeltsin, since parties
whose leaders back Yeltsin's re-election won a combined total of almost
50% of the vote to 15% for the Communist Party (see OMRI Daily Digest,
16 April 1996). However, a Russian TV commentary broadcast on 17 April
suggested that the level of support for the Communists was surprisingly
high, given that Sverdlovsk voters have traditionally been "cool" toward
the party. The latest VCIOM nationwide poll shows Yeltsin with 18%
support to Communist Party leader Zyuganov's 26%. In a hypothetical
second round, 28% of respondents said they would back Yeltsin and 29%
Zyuganov. However, 40% of those surveyed believe Yeltsin will win the
elections, while just 23% believe Zyuganov will win. -- Laura Belin

TURKEY, MOROCCO ON CHECHNYA MEDIATION. Ankara has played down a
suggestion from Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev that it help broker
peace in Chechnya's struggle with Moscow, Reuters reported on 17 April.
A spokesman for the Turkish Foreign Ministry said Ankara had received
"no official information" on the mediation offer and would not adopt a
position based on news reports, the Turkish Daily News reported the
following day. In response to an earlier suggestion by Yeltsin, Morocco
has declared its readiness to act as a mediator, AFP reported on 17
April. Meanwhile, Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev discussed
Chechnya and Caspian Sea oil with Turkish Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz in
Istanbul on 15 April, Turkish and Russian media reported. Stroev said he
does not think Turkish President Suleyman Demirel will be "interfering"
in the Chechen peace negotiations "as Dudaev wants him to." -- Lowell
Bezanis

HUMAN RIGHTS ADVOCATE BLASTS WEST ON CHECHNYA. The well-known human
rights campaigner Sergei Kovalev accused the West of deliberately
ignoring human rights violations in Chechnya in order to help President
Yeltsin gain re-election, Reuters reported on 17 April. Kovalev, in
Geneva to address the UN Human Rights Commission, expressed dismay with
the West's "pragmatic" policy on Chechnya, which he said is motivated by
fear that Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov might become president. He
characterized this position as misguided, describing the outlook for
human rights in Russia as equally "gloomy" whether Yeltsin or Zyuganov
wins. Meanwhile, journalists, politicians, and war critics gathered in
Moscow on 17 April at the funeral of Obshchaya gazeta correspondent
Nadezhda Chaikova, the 16th journalist killed in Chechnya since fighting
began in December 1994, Russian media reported. -- Scott Parrish and
Laura Belin

DUMA DENOUNCES ARREST OF AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION FIGURES. The State Duma
adopted a resolution by a vote of 346-0 with one abstention calling on
the government not to extradite former Azerbaijani President Ayaz
Mutalibov, Russian and Western agencies reported on 17 April. Former
Azerbaijani Defense Minister Rahim Gaziev, also recently arrested in
Moscow, has already been returned to Baku. The resolution, sponsored by
Popular Power faction leader Sergei Baburin, asked the procurator
general to refuse extradition requests aimed at punishing individuals
for their political beliefs. The same day, the Duma also passed a
resolution, sponsored by ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky, urging
the government to reconsider Russia's adherence to UN economic sanctions
against Libya. While the Duma often passes such resolutions, they are
non-binding and have only indirect impact on official government policy.
-- Scott Parrish

PENSIONS RAISED, BUT PENSION FUND HEAD UNHAPPY. In line with a
recommendation by President Yeltsin, the Duma voted on 17 April to raise
the minimum pension by 10% on 1 May to 69,575 rubles ($14) a month,
ITAR-TASS reported. The deputies, who had earlier sought a 20% increase,
approved the smaller raise two days after Yeltsin hiked the compensation
payments that pensioners receive along with their pensions (see OMRI
Daily Digest, 16 April 1996). Those on the minimum pension will now
receive a total of 219,575 rubles in May, up from 138,250. Those on an
average pension will receive about 350,000. Funding these increases
will, however, pose problems for the Pension Fund. Its head, Vasilii
Barchuk, was clearly unhappy about the decisions, saying on 16 April
that he anticipated problems in meeting the fund's obligations in May.
-- Penny Morvant

DUMA PASSES LAND CODE IN SECOND READING. The Duma voted on 17 April by
270-23 with three abstentions to pass the Russian Federation Land Code
in the second reading, ITAR-TASS reported. The bill, which stresses the
importance of land as a natural resource and means of production,
provides for various forms of leasing arable land but excludes the
possibility of its sale. Aleksandr Kotenkov, Yeltsin's representative in
the Duma, condemned the draft, arguing that it contradicts Russian
citizens' constitutional right to own land, and indicated that the
president would refuse to sign such a version, NTV reported. The Land
Code was passed in the first reading on 14 July 1995. A large section of
the Civil Code cannot be implemented until the parliament approves a law
on land. -- Penny Morvant

NUCLEAR MINISTRY'S MILITARY PRODUCTION DROPS BY 30% IN 1995 AS
CONVERSION PROCEEDS. The implementation of conversion programs resulted
in a 30% drop in the military output of companies whose activities are
regulated by the Nuclear Energy Ministry, ITAR-TASS reported on 17
April. Due to a lack of federal funding, the ministry's conversion
program was largely financed from the industry's $2.5 billion export
revenue, especially in such areas as micro-electronics, medical and
electronic equipment manufacturing, and optical cables. Of this sum, the
ministry has allocated 400 billion rubles ($87.7 million) to security
research at nuclear power stations. -- Natalia Gurushina

RUSSIANS DO NOT TRUST NEW $100 BILLS. Russians are not eager to change
their old $100 notes for the new ones, according to a survey published
in Izvestiya on 17 April. Some are unwilling to pay the 2% commission
(although in practice many banks charge a lower rate), others are put
off by the non-appealing portrait of Benjamin Franklin with a "hard
stare and contemptuously pursed lips." Russian experts also claim that
the new $100 note looks like a black and white photocopy. Also, forged
currency detectors used in Russian banks and currency exchange booths
are often unable to detect the magnetic strips on the new bills. An
additional problem is that many banks in other CIS countries and shop-
keepers in countries popular with Russian shuttle-traders ("chelnoki"),
such as Turkey, are refusing to accept the new bills. -- Natalia
Gurushina

FUEL AND ENERGY COMPLEX'S DEBT TO THE BUDGET TOPPED $5.7 BILLION IN
1995. Fuel and Energy Deputy Minister Anatolii Kozyrev said the
industry's debt to the 1995 consolidated budget was 26 trillion rubles
($5.7 billion), compared with the 65 trillion rubles transferred to the
budget that year, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 April. The major reason
behind this was customers' non-payments to fuel and energy companies,
which reached 105 trillion rubles in 1995. The sector itself owes more
than 127 trillion rubles to other industries. Kozyrev also noted that
because of non-payments by customers, fuel and energy companies lost 15
trillion rubles in profits over the year. As a result, 24% of the
enterprises in the sector were run with losses totaling more than 2
trillion rubles. -- Natalia Gurushina

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

ANOTHER FORMER LEADING AZERBAIJANI OFFICIAL ARRESTED. Former Azerbaijan
Prime Minister Panah Guseinov was arrested on charges of treason during
the night of 16-17 April, Turan reported on 17 April. Guseinov's
resignation was one of the first demands made by rebel Colonel Suret
Huseinov at the time of the June 1993 coup that led to the ouster of
President Abulfaz Elchibey. -- Liz Fuller

GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT ISSUES ULTIMATUM OVER RUSSIAN PEACEKEEPERS. In an
emergency debate on 17 April, the Georgian parliament adopted a
resolution calling for the withdrawal of Russian peacekeeping forces
from the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia unless their
mandate is expanded within the next two months to enable them to protect
ethnic Georgian refugees wishing to return to their homes, AFP and
Russian media reported. -- Liz Fuller

RFE/RL OPENS TASHKENT BUREAU. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty announced
on 17 April that it had opened a news bureau in Tashkent in a ceremony
attended by Uzbek President Islam Karimov, diplomatic dignitaries, and
RFE/RL directors. The opening of the bureau comes more than two years
after Karimov originally agreed to it; an increasingly tight information
policy in Uzbekistan, which outside observers been attributed to the
conflict in Tajikistan, is believed to have delayed the government's
willingness to follow through on the original agreement. RFE/RL already
has a bureau in Bishkek, and Turkmenistan has also signaled its
willingness to permit the opening of a bureau in Ashgabat. -- Lowell
Bezanis

TAJIKISTAN'S INTERIOR MINISTER NEW CIS TOP COP. Tajikistan's recently
designated interior minister, Sayidamir Zuhurov, was elected chairman of
the CIS Interior Minister's Council at a meeting in Dushanbe on 17
April, RFE/RL reported the same day. In a statement to RFE/RL, Zuhurov
was upbeat about the implementation of proposals to coordinate efforts
against organized crime and weapons and drugs smuggling. -- Lowell
Bezanis

KAZAKHSTAN TO INCREASE OIL EXPORTS. The joint Kazakhstani-U.S.
enterprise Tengizshvroil will now be able to export a significantly
greater amount of oil through Russian territory every year following an
agreement reached between the relevant parties in Russia and Kazakhstan,
ITAR-TASS reported on 17 April. Kazakhstan will now be able to export
about 4-5 metric tons of oil and gas condensates a year through the
Atyrau-Samara pipeline and through the Russian oil company Transneft's
system to Europe, which will bring in an extra $450 million.
Tengizchevroil's quota of 1 million metric tons of oil and gas a year
had forced it to constrain its oil extraction in the Tengiz oil fields
due to a lack of other pipelines to export oil. Kazakhstan's oil output
increased by 23% in the first quarter of this year. The Kazakhstani
government has sold half of its 50% share in Tengizchevroil to Mobil,
whereas Chevron retains its 50% share, the Financial Times reported on
18 April.-- Bhavna Dave

[As of 12:00 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez

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