The fool wonders, the wise man asks. - Benjamin Disraeli
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 80, Part I, 23 April 1996

New OMRI Analytical Briefs:
- "Uighurs Casualty of "Confidence Building" in Asia," 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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
COURT RULES YELTSIN MAY RETURN LAWS TO PARLIAMENT. The Constitutional
Court handed President Boris Yeltsin another method of blocking
legislation, ruling that the president may return a law to parliament if
he finds legal flaws in the document or procedural violations in how it
was passed, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported on 22 April. Parliamentary
representatives who brought the case had argued that the constitution
grants the president only two options once a law has been passed by the
State Duma and Federation Council: to sign or to veto. Duma deputy and
Communist Party member Oleg Mironov complained to Russian TV (RTR) that
the ruling expands the president's already extensive powers, making him
in effect a "censor over legislative activities." The court also ruled
that the president must act on laws within 14 days, or else he will have
no option but to approve them. -- Laura Belin
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

RUSSIA

ZYUGANOV DEFENDS ECONOMIC PROGRAM. Gennadii Zyuganov defended his
party's economic program in a 21 April interview on NTV. He said that
all forms of property would be respected but declined to give explicit
guarantees for private property. He equivocated when pressed to specify
how he would control inflation or meet IMF loans conditions, merely
repeating familiar themes such as the need to revive domestic industrial
production and improve tax collection. He denied that he feels under
pressure from leftist parties. He said he is willing to talk "with all
sides" in the Chechen conflict--implying that this would include Chechen
President Dzhokhar Dudaev--but insisted that the territorial integrity
of Russia is not negotiable. -- Peter Rutland

ADMINISTRATION SENDS MIXED SIGNALS ON GRACHEV SPEECH. Yeltsin
administration figures on 23 April provided conflicting accounts of
Defense Minister Pavel Grachev's 19 April speech to the Duma. The
Defense Ministry information department criticized NTV for claiming that
Grachev "betrayed the president" and disagreed with the president's
peace plan in his speech, Krasnaya zvezda reported. However,
presidential national security adviser Yurii Baturin argued that
Grachev's criticism of the president's peace plan was "his own opinion,"
Izvestiya reported on 23 April. Baturin admitted, however, that he had
not read the full text of the speech. Citing the failure of the military
to implement the peace plan and the high casualty figures on both sides
of the conflict, Nezavisimaya gazeta concluded on 23 April that "serious
personnel changes are in the works." Numerous rumors of Grachev's
impending dismissal in the past have proven unfounded. -- Robert Orttung

YAROSLAVL YABLOKO BACKS YELTSIN. The Yaroslavl branch of Yabloko joined
a host of other democratic parties at the Interregional Congress of
Russian Reform Forces in issuing an appeal to support President Boris
Yeltsin as a single candidate from the democratic camp, NTV reported on
22 April. Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii is running his own campaign
and has vowed not to support Yeltsin under any circumstances. Vladimir
Shumeiko's Reforms-New Course, one of several groups backing Yeltsin's
candidacy, organized the affair. Representatives from Russia's
Democratic Choice were also at the congress, although that party has yet
to decide whom it will support. The pro-Yeltsin mood at the congress was
not unanimous. Duma member Konstantin Borovoi argued that the reformers
need to support a single candidate only in the second round, Russian
Public TV (ORT) reported. -- Robert Orttung

"NONE OF THE ABOVE" SUPPORTERS ORGANIZE MOVEMENT. A group of citizens
has announced the formation of "Nyet," a group that will ask voters to
vote against all candidates in the second round of the presidential
elections, ITAR-TASS reported. If "none of the above" gets more votes
than either of the candidates, new elections have to be called within
three months. Recent polls show that 18% of the voters would reject both
Yeltsin and Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov if they are the two to
reach the second round. Meanwhile, the Central Electoral Committee
denied registration to MMM pyramid scheme director Sergei Mavrodi but
bowed to a Supreme Court order to register the vice president of the
International Foundation for Economic and Social Reform, Martin Shakkum,
as the eighth candidate, Russian TV (RTR) reported. -- Robert Orttung

FUTURES TRADING ON PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION BEGINS. As is the practice in
some Western countries, a "futures market" on the presidential election
opened on the Russian stock exchange on 22 April, NTV and Russian TV
reported. Speculators can purchase "futures contracts" indicating the
percentage of the vote they expect candidates to receive. On the first
day of trading, Gennadii Zyuganov finished with 26.4%, Boris Yeltsin
25.3%, Svyatoslav Fedorov 13%, Grigorii Yavlinskii 11%, Vladimir
Zhirinovsky 6.1%, Aleksandr Lebed 4.8%, and Mikhail Gorbachev 1.2%. --
Laura Belin

COMMUNISTS PAY TRIBUTE TO LENIN. Russian communists, led by presidential
candidate Gennadii Zyuganov, laid wreaths on Lenin's tomb on 22 April to
mark the 126th anniversary of the Soviet leader's birth, ITAR-TASS and
Reuters reported. A few hundred people, mostly elderly, took part in the
procession. The popular daily Moskovskii komsomolets made fun of the
anniversary with a front-page layout parodying the Pravda of yesteryear.
It included a long eulogy to Lenin and a dull harvest report. -- Penny
Morvant

CHECHEN DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER WOUNDED. Badruddin Djamalkhanov, a deputy
prime minister of the pro-Moscow Chechen government, was seriously
wounded and two of his entourage killed in an assassination attempt in
Grozny on 23 April, ITAR-TASS reported, quoting the commander of the
Russian federal forces in Chechnya, Lt. Gen. Vyacheslav Tikhomirov. Last
week, Anatolii Yagodin became the 17th journalist to be killed in
Chechnya since the beginning of hostilities in December 1994. In
southern Chechnya, the town of Shali with a population of 50,000
(including 20,000 refugees) has been surrounded for four days by Russian
troops because of the alleged presence there of 350 Chechen militants
under the command of President Dzhokhar Dudaev's chief of staff, Aslan
Maskhadov, Russian media reported. -- Liz Fuller

YELTSIN COURTS REGIONAL PRESS. Admitting that the presidential
administration has been guilty of "insufficient openness" in the past,
Yeltsin's chief of staff, Nikolai Yegorov, announced the creation of a
"regional press agency," ITAR-TASS and Russian Public TV (ORT) reported
on 22 April. He said regional journalists would be given more
opportunities to interview top leaders and accompany the president on
his travels. The agency is intended to facilitate favorable coverage of
the president during the upcoming campaign, as Russians increasingly get
their news from media based in their own regions. -- Laura Belin

YELTSIN IN CHINA. On 22 April, President Yeltsin departed for a three-
day visit to Beijing, Russian and Western agencies reported. The same
day his foreign policy adviser, Dmitrii Ryurikov, announced that the
demarcation process taking place under the 1991 Soviet-Chinese border
agreement had been temporarily frozen pending discussions to be held
during the visit. As recently as12 April, Yeltsin had announced that the
demarcation would be accelerated. The confusion suggests that the border
agreement has opponents within the Yeltsin administration. -- Scott
Parrish

RUSSIAN FISHERIES OFFICIAL BLAMES JAPAN FOR STALLING TALKS. The deputy
chairman of the Russian Fisheries Committee, Aleksandr Rodin, blamed
Japan for continued failure to conclude a bilateral agreement regulating
fishing rights in the waters around the disputed southern Kuril islands,
AFP reported on 22 April. Rodin claimed that Japanese refusal to accept
inspections by Russian fisheries authorities is the "only obstacle"
blocking an agreement in the long-running talks. The lack of an
agreement has led to several incidents in which Russian border guards
have fired on Japanese trawlers. Rodin's remarks contrast sharply with
the warm tone of President Yeltsin's recent meeting with Japanese Prime
Minister Ryuarto Hashimoto, and illustrate the continuing poor
coordination of Russian foreign policy. -- Scott Parrish

REACTION TO MOSCOW SUMMIT MEETINGS. The recent G-7 nuclear safety summit
in Moscow was perfectly staged to bolster President Yeltsin's election
campaign, Izvestiya reported on 23 April. The paper noted that during
the summit and his subsequent talks with Yeltsin, U.S. President Bill
Clinton had "deliberately" attempted to avoid a transparent display of
support for Yeltsin. However, the paper noted that the G-7 leaders had
"avoided at all cost" any criticism of Yeltsin's Chechnya policy,
pointing out that Clinton even compared the Chechen conflict with the
U.S. Civil War. These remarks earned Clinton censure from the
independent monitoring group Human Rights Watch, which said he had
"abdicated all responsibility" for advocating improved human rights in
Russia, AFP reported. -- Scott Parrish

BUDGET DEFICIT WIDENS. In the first quarter of 1996, federal budget
spending was 75% of the planned level, while income only reached 68%,
Segodnya reported on 19 April. The gap was financed through the sale of
18.4 trillion rubles ($3.8 billion) of treasury bills (GKOs) and 14.3
trillion rubles of foreign loans, and by more dubious "non-traditional"
means, such as tax waivers (2.8 trillion rubles) and bank credits (3.7
trillion rubles). Olga Dmitrieva, the head of a subcommittee of the
Duma's Budget Committee, criticized both the government and Duma
deputies for pursuing policies that exacerbate the situation, increasing
spending while further eroding revenues, Segodnya reported on 20 April.
-- Peter Rutland

RUSSO-CHINESE TRADE ON THE INCREASE. The volume of Russo-Chinese trade
reached $5.5 billion in 1995, up 7.6% over 1994, ITAR-TASS reported on
22 April, citing Foreign Economic Relations Minister Oleg Davydov.
Russia's exports to China stood at $3.8 billion, mainly metals and
fertilizer, while imports reached $1.7 billion. In 1994, 49% of the
trade was conducted through barter, but this proportion fell to 29% in
1995. In the first two months of 1996, Russo-Chinese trade rose 20%
compared with the same period last year. -- Natalia Gurushina

RUSSIA CANCELS NICARAGUAN DEBT. Russia has agreed to write off 98% of
Nicaragua's $3.4 billion debt to the former USSR, Reuters and ITAR-TASS
reported on 19 April. The bulk of the debt were payments for weapons,
oil, and raw materials supplied to the Sandinista government in the
1980s. Nicaragua will repay the remaining $70 million debt over 18 years
beginning in 2001. -- Natalia Gurushina

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

TRANSCAUCASUS PRESIDENTS SIGN ACCORDS WITH EU. The presidents of
Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia signed partnership and cooperation
accords with the EU in Luxemburg on 22 April, Turan and Western agencies
reported. The accords provide for increased political dialog at the
ministerial level, cultural and social exchanges, and a gradual
relaxation of trade barriers. Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossyan
and Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev further pledged to continue to
observe the Nagorno-Karabakh ceasefire agreement signed in May 1994,
pending a political settlement of the conflict--a move praised as
"encouraging" by German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel. -- Liz Fuller

MUSAVAT PARTY SECRETARY RELEASED. Arif Hadjiev, the secretary of the
opposition Musavat Party detained by police in Baku last week, has been
released after being charged with concealing state crimes and resisting
arrest, Turan reported. Former President Abulfaz Elchibey, who
disappeared after police occupied his headquarters in the Nakhichevan
village of Keleki on 19 April, has taken refuge with relatives and is
unharmed. Turan and Russian TV (RTR) quoted President Heidar Aliev as
saying in Baku before departing for Europe that former President Ayaz
Mutalibov, whose extradition from Moscow to Baku is currently being
negotiated, could receive a 12-year sentence rather than the death
penalty if he pleads guilty. -- Liz Fuller

KAZAKHSTAN TO BUILD MEDICAL CENTER AT NUCLEAR TESTING SITE. An
international medical center is to be built at the former Soviet nuclear
testing grounds at Semipalatinsk, the republic's minister of science and
new technologies told ITAR-TASS on 22 April. The center will receive
both government funding and humanitarian aid from abroad. It will
specialize in the medical effects of nearly 40 years of nuclear tests
conducted in the region. The incidence of cardiovascular diseases in the
areas affected by the tests is more than two times higher than the
average for the republic as a whole, while that for diseases of the
blood is nearly five times higher. -- Doug Clarke

BOMB EXPLOSIONS NEAR GOVERNMENT BUILDING IN BISHKEK. Two bombs exploded
near government buildings in Bishkek during the early hours of 20 April,
according to a Kyrgyz TV report monitored by the BBC. No damage or
casualties have been reported and an investigation has been launched. --
Bhavna Dave

KARIMOV IN FRANCE. Uzbek President Islam Karimov is wrapping up a four-
day visit to France on 23 April during which he met with his French
counterpart, Jacques Chirac, to discuss measures to assist French
investors in Uzbekistan, Russian media reported. The Uzbek delegation
noted that there are only five Uzbek-French joint ventures, while there
are more than 200 U.S. and 170 German joint ventures. Last week, Andre
Helfi, the director of the company Technip Kramer, was in Tashkent to
finalize a $250 million deal to help construct what will be the largest
oil refinery in Uzbekistan. -- Roger Kangas

[As of 12:00 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez

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