To appreciate nonsense requires a serious interest in life. - Gelett Burgess

No. 85, Part I, 30 April 1996

Newly published OMRI Analytical Briefs:
No. 89: "Central European Forum Holds Inaugural Conference in Hungary," by
         Peter Rutland
No. 90: "Russian-Kazakhstani Relations from the Chinese Border to the
         Caspian Sea," by Roger Kangas
No. 91: "Caspian Pipeline Consortium Reborn," by Lowell Bezanis and Liz Fuller

Available on the World Wide Web:

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:


CHECHNYA: WHO'S IN CHARGE? Although the Chechen constitution stipulates
that parliament chairman Yakhyat Idigov should take over as acting
president following the still unconfirmed killing of Zelimkhan
Yandarbiev, the various Chechen field commanders object to this,
according to Russian TV (RTR). Chechen military intelligence chief Abu
Movsayev told Turan on 29 April that Moscow plans to eliminate the
entire pro-Dudaev Chechen political leadership. The secretary of the
Russian government commission to implement President Yeltsin's peace
plan, former Federal Security Service head Sergei Stepashin, told ITAR-
TASS that military commander Shamil Basaev is a "highly undesirable"
negotiating partner. The widow of slain President Dzhokhar Dudaev
appealed to Turkish President Suleyman Demirel on 29 April for support
in launching a new Chechen peace initiative, AFP and Zaman reported on
30 April. Also on 29 April, the Russian military extended for 48 hours
its ultimatum to rebel Chechen forces to leave the besieged town of
Shali, ITAR-TASS reported on 30 April. -- Liz Fuller

Satarov told ITAR-TASS on 29 April that President Yeltsin will hold a
series of consultations in response to the appeal by 13 leading bankers
and entrepreneurs for a "political compromise" before the June
presidential election. Satarov said representatives of Gennadii
Zyuganov's Communist Party of the Russian Federation will be invited to
take part in the consultations. Meanwhile, in an interview with the
French newspaper Le Figaro, reprinted in Rossiiskie vesti on 30 April,
Yeltsin warned that ideas advocated by Zyuganov's party present a threat
to "Russia, Russians, and the international community," and that a
Communist electoral victory would bring back the "iron curtain." --
Laura Belin

entrepreneurs who published a recent appeal for a political compromise,
Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov released an open letter
challenging President Yeltsin to a live television debate on the most
important issues facing Russia. In the letter, published in Sovetskaya
Rossiya on 30 April, Zyuganov also called for three measures to
strengthen political stability: amending the constitution to reduce the
president's "extraordinary" powers; increasing the authority of the
parliament to oversee the government's actions; and holding direct
elections of all heads of local administrations after the presidential
election. -- Laura Belin

Berezovskii, who is also deputy chairman of the board of Russian Public
TV (ORT), told RFE/RL on 29 April that the June presidential election
should be delayed or canceled, and President Yeltsin should invite
Gennadii Zyuganov to join the government instead. Berezovskii signed the
recent appeal of 13 entrepreneurs warning that Russian society is deeply
split and the presidential election could lead to civil war. In March
1995, he was among those who called for postponing State Duma election,
scheduled for December 1995, until 1997, but that vote was held on time.
-- Laura Belin

CAMPAIGN IN PRESS BEGINS. The officially registered presidential
candidates were allowed to start publishing campaign materials in the
press on 29 April, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. Candidates will not
be given free space for advertisements, but they may buy up to 10% of
the volume of any publication, as long as the advertisement clearly
indicates in whose interest the space was purchased. All registered
parties and candidates were given free column space in state-owned or
municipal newspapers before the December parliamentary elections, but
most papers were never reimbursed by the Central Electoral Commission
for printing costs. Campaigning on radio and television will begin on 14
May, and the last day for campaigning in the press or electronic media
will be 14 June. -- Laura Belin

congress of President Boris Yeltsin's supporters, top campaign aide
Sergei Filatov said Yeltsin supports current Mayor Anatolii Sobchak in
the upcoming St. Petersburg gubernatorial election, while Sobchak said
he will vote for Yeltsin, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 April. The St.
Petersburg vote was initially scheduled for 16 June, the same day as the
first round of the presidential election, but a March presidential
decree moved the date to 19 May (see OMRI Daily Digest, 21 March 1996).
The president's camp may have feared that a higher turnout in St.
Petersburg, a stronghold for Yabloko, would benefit Grigorii Yavlinskii
in the presidential race. The mayoral election in Moscow, where Yeltsin
is more popular than in St. Petersburg, is scheduled for 16 June. --
Laura Belin

TATARSTAN TV WORKERS PROTEST CENSORSHIP. Fifteen employees of the state-
owned Tatarstan TV station began a two-day hunger strike on 26 April in
protest against the company's "conservative" methods, saying they are
reminiscent of the "period of stagnation," ITAR-TASS reported. In an
interview with Ekho Moskvy, one of the protesters claimed that the
company's management is practicing censorship by canceling all programs
that feature people or views not to the liking of the authorities. On 12
March, a group of editors and producers published a statement in the
local press and sent a letter to Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev
expressing their dissatisfaction with the management style.
Subsequently, the authors were threatened with dismissal and "a
repressive regime" was instituted against them. Tatarstan TV is widely
regarded as one of the most tightly controlled regional TV networks,
consistently following a pro-Shaimiev and pro-Yeltsin line. -- Penny

U.S. HIKES VISA FEES FOR RUSSIANS. The U.S. Embassy in Moscow announced
an increase in visa fees for Russian applicants in retaliation for
recent Russian hikes in visa charges for Americans, ITAR-TASS reported
on 29 April. Starting on 1 May, a multiple-entry U.S. visa valid for one
year will cost $150, while a three-year multiple-entry visa will cost
$450. Similar visas had previously cost $60 and $120 respectively.
Single-entry one-year visas, which had cost $20, will no longer be
available. Embassy spokesmen acknowledged that the increased fees would
be very expensive for average Russians, but said that U.S. law required
visa fees match those of other countries. The U.S. fees could be lowered
if Russia reduces its charges, they added. -- Scott Parrish

JAPAN, RUSSIA SIGN DEFENSE AGREEMENT. Japanese Defense Agency Director-
General Hideo Usui and his Russian counterpart, Pavel Grachev, signed a
military cooperation protocol in Moscow on 29 April, Russian and Western
agencies reported. The agreement calls for advance notice of military
exercises, and also provides for exchanges of information, training
missions, and naval port visits. Usui, the first Japanese defense chief
to visit Russia since World War II, also met with Foreign Minister
Yevgenii Primakov to discuss bilateral relations and Asia-Pacific
security. Usui told ITAR-TASS he viewed his visit as "productive," and
hoped that the establishment of personal contacts with his Russian
colleagues would boost bilateral ties. A member of Usui's delegation
suggested that Japan is considering purchasing advanced fighter
technology from Russia, and is "particularly interested" in the SU-27.
-- Scott Parrish

Foreign Ministry criticized the omission of Russia from the multilateral
force that will monitor the recently-concluded ceasefire in southern
Lebanon, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 April. The ministry argued that
Russia's exclusion demonstrates a "clear underestimation" of Russian
efforts in the region and its role as a co-sponsor of the Middle East
peace process. It added that Russia had made a "weighty contribution" to
hammering out the ceasefire, and would fully support its implementation.
However, it noted that Russia views the agreement as merely temporary,
and hopes that full-fledged talks will resume soon, with the goal of
restoring Lebanon's territorial integrity and securing a stable regional
peace. Moscow's attempts to use the recent crisis to regain a
significant role in the region have so far proven fruitless. -- Scott

last received their wages in December, are cutting back power supplies
to consumers who have failed to pay their bills, ITAR-TASS reported on
29 April. Komienergo is owed more than 1 trillion rubles ($203 million)
by consumers and cannot afford to pay its workers or purchase fuel.
Meanwhile, about 1,000 employees of the Vladivostok power plant
demonstrated outside the Primorskii Krai government building to protest
wage arrears, Russian TV (RTR) reported. The power company Dalenergo is
also owed 1 trillion rubles, much it from the military and the defense
industry. The perpetual payments crisis in the energy sector has
resulted in frequent power cuts in the krai. -- Penny Morvant

"GENERAL DIMA" GOES ON TRIAL. The trial of controversial lawyer Dmitrii
Yakubovskii, charged with involvement in the theft of valuable ancient
manuscripts from the Russian National Library in St. Petersburg, opened
in the city on 29 April, ITAR-TASS reported. Yakubovskii, or "General
Dima" as he is often called, was arrested on 20 December 1994 and has
been held in the Kresty pre-trial detention center. In 1993, Yakubovskii
helped gather evidence against Yeltsin's political rivals, including
then Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoi. He was also involved in
investigating corruption in the Western Group of Forces stationed in
eastern Germany. The trial was adjourned until 13 May to give
Yakubovskii time to read the 33 volumes of case files. -- Penny Morvant

head of the political psychology faculty of St. Petersburg University,
was hospitalized on 29 April after a masked man threw acid in his face,
NTV reported. The attack occurred at Yurev's home, when the professor,
expecting students, opened his front door. Yurev, an adviser to St.
Petersburg Mayor Anatolii Sobchak, had been working on the latter's
campaign for the gubernatorial election scheduled for 19 May. He also
served occasionally as an adviser to Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin.
A member of the government apparatus quoted by ITAR-TASS ruled out any
link between the attack on Yurev and the murder of Chernomyrdin's
personal physician on 26 April. -- Penny Morvant

ARMY HOUSING SHORTAGE CONTINUES. Deputy Defense Minister Col. Gen.
Anatolii Solomatin said on 26 April that 117,400 army personnel are
without housing because of a lack of funds, ITAR-TASS reported. Another
58,000 army families are in need of better housing, while 152,000
soldiers in the reserve are on the waiting list. Solomatin said that the
state military housing program for 1996-1997, which envisages the
construction of 50,000 apartments, will not fully resolve the problem
and that in the first quarter of this year the program received only
half the funds originally planned. Feeding the army also continues to be
a problem. Rear Forces Col. Gen. Vladimir Churanov told the Duma on 27
April that the army had used up 40% of its emergency food rations,
Russian TV (RTR) reported. -- Penny Morvant

PROBLEMS FUNDING NEW TEXTBOOKS. Education Minister Yevgenii Tkachenko
told ITAR-TASS on 29 April that his ministry will spend 500 billion
rubles ($100 million) on 100 million new textbooks by the start of the
next school year. However, so far the Finance Ministry has only released
100 billion rubles, so Tkachenko's ministry has taken a three month, 170
million ruble loan from three commercial banks in order to keep to the
printing schedule. -- Peter Rutland


CHINA, CENTRAL ASIANS JOIN FORCES. China has reached an understanding
with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and unspecified "others" to combat
separatist, terrorist, and fundamentalist activities, Reuters reported
on 29 April. Further details of the agreement mentioned by Chinese
Foreign Minister Qian Qichen during an interview the same day were not
revealed. Any such arrangement is likely aimed at keeping a tight rein
on the Uighur Muslim minority in Xinjiang. Estimates on the size of the
Uighur minority range from 7 million to 22 milion. In April, an Uighur
group in Kyrgyzstan, Ittipak, was banned for three months; Kazakhstan
announced it was "totally opposed" to any efforts to stoke nationalism
in China's "northwest"; and China outlawed the independent publication
of books or cassettes on Islam. -- Lowell Bezanis

Assembly of the Peoples of Kazakhstan, President Nursultan Nazarbayev
announced that his government is drafting a new security law designed to
thwart "forces and personalities within the republic" that threaten
Kazakhstan's statehood, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 April. Nazarbayev
emphasized the need to "display more care" for the country's stability
and inter-ethnic relations, and criticized those who would like to see a
return of the Soviet Union. Nazarbayev did not specify which individuals
or groups the new law would target. The assembly, which opened its third
session on 29 April, operates on a voluntary basis and its 327 members
represent the more than 40 different national cultural centers in
Kazakhstan, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. This session is also
scheduled to address the 29 March integration treaty with Russia,
Belarus, and Kyrgyzstan. -- Roger Kangas

National Guard, cited only as A. Chotbayev, gave an alarming assessment
of his troops in an article published in Vechernyaya Moskva on 26 April.
According to Chotbayev, a study of 112 conscripts in the guard conducted
by doctors and psychiatrists in December 1995 showed that only 14 of
them do not suffer from "deep psychological problems"; nine out of 10
were not in sufficient physical shape to serve; 45 exhibited learning
deficiencies; and 19 were considered "debilitated." Chotbayev said most
of Kyrgyzstan's more competent youths tend to avoid service by entering
college or business. He noted that between 1994 and the first quarter of
1996, 709 officers, warrant officers, and sergeants had been convicted
of military crimes. He described the national guard as "an army of
workers, peasants, and criminals." The National Guard was created after
1991; Kyrgystan has stated that it will not establish a fully-fledged
army. -- Bruce Pannier

[As of 12:00 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez

            Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc.
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