Liberty of thought means liberty to communicate one's thought. - Salvador de Madariaga
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 86, Part I, 02 May 1996

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

RUSSIA

YANDARBIEV STILL ALIVE. Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev appeared
on the pro-Dudaev Chechen TV channel during the night of 30 April--1
May, saying that reports of his death in a shootout two nights earlier
were premature, Russian media reported. In an interview with ITAR-TASS
on 1 May, Yandarbiev said that "in order to save human lives we are
ready at any time to begin talks with Moscow at the appropriate level"
but only on condition that Russian troops are withdrawn from Chechnya.
At a joint press conference with Chechen Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov
on 1 May, Yandarbiev dismissed reports of a rift between himself and
Maskhadov as a Russian intelligence fabrication, NTV reported. Also on 1
May, ITAR-TASS quoted Chechen head of state Doku Zavgaev as saying that
Russian President Boris Yeltsin intends to visit Chechnya prior to the
June presidential election. -- Liz Fuller

YELTSIN ADDRESSES MAY DAY RALLY. . . Several thousand people took part
in a May Day rally organized by Moscow trade unions and addressed by
President Boris Yeltsin and Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, Russian and
Western agencies reported. Yeltsin appealed to voters to support him in
the June presidential election to ensure democracy, "social justice,"
and the continuation of reform. He blamed wage and pension payment
delays on unscrupulous managers, and noted that 1,261 criminal cases
have been opened against offenders. Federation of Independent Trade
Unions (FNPR) leader Mikhail Shmakov said that rallies under the slogan
of "Employment, Earnings, Law" were held in more than 60 regional
centers. Some in the Far East expressed support for Communist leader
Gennadii Zyuganov. The FNPR has not endorsed any presidential candidate.
-- Penny Morvant

. . . BUT ZYUGANOV ATTRACTS MORE MARCHERS. On the other side of Moscow,
Russian communists and other leftist groups took part in a larger, old-
style May Day rally attended by Zyuganov and other leading left-wingers,
including Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev, Agrarian leader Mikhail
Lapshin, and Workers' Russia head Viktor Anpilov. Some 8,000 attended
the Moscow gathering, while a rally in St. Petersburg attracted up to
35,000 marchers, according to Reuters. All the major rallies took place
peacefully, in contrast to the violence that marred the 1993 May Day
celebrations. -- Penny Morvant

ZYUGANOV MEETS BANKERS, CHERNOMYRDIN. Communist Party leader Gennadii
Zyuganov held a two-hour meeting behind closed doors with the 13 bankers
and entrepreneurs who recently appealed for a political compromise
before the presidential election, Russian media reported on 30 April.
Logovaz Director Boris Berezovskii, who is also deputy chairman of the
board of Russian Public TV (ORT), said the meeting went "splendidly,"
NTV and ORT reported. Zyuganov was also satisfied with the meeting; he
told Russian TV (RTR) that he understood the businessmen's worries about
the fate of the economy. On the same day, in his capacity as leader of
the largest State Duma faction rather than as a presidential candidate,
Zyuganov met with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin to discuss a number
of issues, including the need to preserve order at the May Day rallies,
ITAR-TASS reported. -- Laura Belin

DEPUTY ON ZYUGANOV'S PLANS TO CREATE DEFENSE COUNCIL. Duma deputy
Mikhail Surkov, a member of the presidium of the Communist Party of the
Russian Federation, told RFE/RL on 30 April that Gennadii Zyuganov plans
to set up a special Defense Council if he is elected president. Surkov
said the council would be chaired by the president himself and would
control the "power ministries" of defense, interior, and the Federal
Security Service. He added that the General Staff of the Armed Forces
would report directly to Zyuganov rather than to the defense minister,
as is now the practice. -- Laura Belin

COURT CONFIRMS PRESIDENT'S POWER TO APPOINT REGIONAL GOVERNORS. The
Constitutional Court has ruled that the president may appoint and
dismiss regional administration heads as well as set the dates for
gubernatorial elections, Russian media reported on 30 April. President
Yeltsin gave himself those powers in an October 1994 decree. The court
case was initiated by the State Duma and the Kamchatka and Kursk oblast
legislatures, which argued that the decree violated the constitution and
deprives voters of their right to participate in the formation of
regional governments. The court decreed that the president may appoint
and dismiss regional leaders in all federation subjects that have no
legislation on the election of regional administration heads. -- Anna
Paretskaya

RUSSIAN MUSLIMS UNITE. Russia's two largest Muslim organizations, the
Union of Muslims of Russia (SMR) and Nur movement, have agreed to
establish a single association of Muslim organizations, Radio Rossii
reported on 1 May. The new organization, to be called the Russian Muslim
Union, is aimed at defending and expressing the interests of Muslims
more effectively than the numerous existing small groups and all Muslim
organizations in Russia are welcome to join it, according to SMR
President Mukhtar Seibulaev. According to official statistics, there are
about 2,300 Muslim organizations in Russia serving the interests of the
country's estimated 12-20 million Muslims. -- Anna Paretskaya

CHECHEN OIL BLAZE. On the night of 30 April, two tanks with 10,000
metric tons of oil were set ablaze in the Zavodskoi district of Grozny,
ITAR-TASS reported. There was speculation that the act may have been
intended to conceal evidence of theft. So far this year, 156 underground
mini-oil refineries have been discovered in Chechnya, up from 72 last
year. Each operation typically drains off 7-8 tons of oil per day from
the pipeline crossing the territory. The pipeline has continued to
function despite the military hostilities. -- Peter Rutland

FOREIGN MINISTRY: AGREEMENT WITH CHINA IS NON-AGGRESSION PACT. Deputy
Foreign Minister Aleksandr Panov told ITAR-TASS on 30 April that Russia
considers the five-nation border security agreement recently signed with
China (see OMRI Daily Digest, 26 April 1996) as "in effect a non-
aggression treaty." Panov suggested that the treaty could serve as a
model for other countries in the Asia-Pacific region, and said that the
next step in building a security regime along the Russian-Chinese border
would be an agreement on mutual troop reductions. While denying that
Russia plans to form a political or military alliance with China, Panov
added that there are no outstanding bilateral problems. Meanwhile, on 2
May, the chief of staff of the Chinese People's Liberation Army, General
Fu Quan-Yu, arrived in Russia for a six-day official visit. -- Scott
Parrish

MINISTER UPBEAT ON MILITARY SALES TO JAPAN. Deputy Foreign Minister
Aleksandr Panov said on 1 May that the way is open for the export of
advanced Russian weapons such as the Su-27 jet fighters to Japan, ITAR-
TASS reported. During the recent visit of the head of the Japanese Self
Defense Agency to Moscow, some Japanese officials expressed an interest
in this aircraft. Panov admitted that the Japanese have not yet
officially raised the matter but said that Russia "would only welcome
such an approach." -- Doug Clarke

JEWISH EMIGRATION ORGANIZATION PROTESTS BAN. The Jewish Agency for
Immigration has protested the 30 April closure of a seminar it had
organized in Pyatigorsk (Stavropol Krai), AFP and RFE/RL reported.
Russian police officials said they closed the meeting because of a 2
April decision revoking the agency's accreditation to operate in Russia.
The agency, which assists Jewish emigration to Israel from countries all
over the world, organized the seminar in Pyatigorsk because it said
Jewish refugees fleeing violence in the Caucasus region have
concentrated there. The agency's chairman, Avraham Burg, said the agency
"has never been subjected to such treatment" anywhere else in the world.
Since 1989, the agency has helped about 630,000 former Soviet Jews to
resettle in Israel. On 1 May, the U.S. State Department also expressed
concern about possible limitations on Jewish emigration from Russia. --
Scott Parrish

FSB SEIZES COPIES OF BELLONA REPORT. Russian Federal Security Service
officers on 30 April confiscated copies of a report by the Norwegian-
based environmental group Bellona on the environmental threat posed by
the Northern Fleet's nuclear installations on the Kola Peninsula, AFP
reported. The reports were seized from the home of Bellona activist
Aleksei Klimov in Severodvinsk by FSB officers brandishing a document
issued by the security service in St. Petersburg stating that
circulation of the report in Russia is prohibited. A Russian employee of
Bellona, retired navy captain Aleksandr Nikitin, is facing charges of
espionage for his contribution to the report, released on the eve of the
Moscow nuclear safety summit in April. Bellona representative Thomas
Nilsen said the FSB's action ran counter to President Yeltsin's
statement in Oslo in March that the Russian authorities have nothing
against Bellona, and speculated that the FSB may be working
independently. -- Penny Morvant

WORLD BANK LOAN FOR SOCIAL SERVICES APPROVED. The World Bank has
approved a $200 million loan to support local social services in Russia,
including health care, education, water supplies, and sanitation,
Reuters reported on 1 May. The money, to be repaid over 17 years, will
finance improvements in key facilities in Novosibirsk and Rostov
oblasts. Since 1992, local and regional authorities have taken on new
responsibilities in the education and health sectors, while the
contribution of the federal government and enterprises has declined.
Another $537 million in loans for social services are in the pipeline:
$300 million for housing, $200 million for education, and $37 million
for health. -- Penny Morvant

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

ABASHIDZE CHALLENGES SHEVARDNADZE. Adzhar parliament chairman Aslan
Abashidze, whose All-Georgian Union of Revival is the third largest
party in the Georgian parliament, has threatened to thwart plans for the
export of Azerbaijan's oil via Batumi unless Adzharia's status as a
sovereign republic within Georgia is formalized in the near future,
according to a 29 April Iberia news agency report monitored by the BBC.
-- Liz Fuller

RUSSIAN SOLDIERS TARGETED IN INCIDENTS ON ARMENIAN-TURKISH BORDER.
Russian soldiers guarding the Armenian-Turkish border were allegedly
shot at from Turkey for the third time this month, AFP reported on 1
May. The incidents may be connected with Turkey's ongoing war with
Kurdish rebels operating in Kars, the province adjacent to Armenia. On
26 April, Turkey once again declared the border area with Armenia a
military zone. Later this week Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev
will visit Yerevan to sign a bilateral military-technical cooperation
agreement. -- Lowell Bezanis

UZBEKISTAN CUTS GAS SUPPLIES TO KAZAKHSTAN. Kazakhstani Deputy Minister
of Oil and Gas Industries Viktor Begin has arrived in Tashkent to
resolve the conflict over Uzbekistan's decision to cut off natural gas
supplies to Kazakhstan due to unpaid bills, ITAR-TASS reported on 1 May.
Observers speculate that Kazakhstan will agree to settle the debt with
shipments of petroleum and other fuels. Current gas supplies in
Kazakhstan could be exhausted as early as 3 May. -- Roger Kangas

A "CHINA PIPELINE" FOR KAZAKHSTAN? Following the recent reconfiguration
of the Caspian Sea Consortium (see OMRI Daily Digest, 29 April 1996),
Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Gizzatov announced that Kazakhstan is
seriously considering a pipeline route that would travel eastward
through China to the Pacific Ocean, ITAR-TASS reported on 30 April. Such
a project would cost up to $12 billion and would create the world's
longest pipeline. -- Roger Kangas

CENTRAL ASIAN BATTALION TO BE DEPLOYED IN TAJIKISTAN. A future joint
battalion of Kazakhstani, Uzbek, and Kyrgyz forces under UN command will
be based in Tajikistan, the three countries' respective foreign
ministers announced in Almaty on 30 April. The 500-person unit, which
will trained under the auspices of NATO's Partnership for Peace program,
is to be formed later this year, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Roger Kangas

AFGHANS READY TO NEUTRALIZE TAJIK OPPOSITION IN NORTH. A commander of
the Afghan government forces, Said Najmuddin, met with the commander of
the Russian border forces, Pavel Tarasenko, in the southeastern Tajik
city of Khorog on 29 April, RFE/RL and Russian TV (RTR) reported.
Najmuddin told Tarasenko that the Afghan government is prepared to
launch strikes against Tajik opposition forces that have attacked the
CIS peacekeeping force guarding the Tajik-Afghan border from their bases
in northern Afghanistan. -- Bruce Pannier

NEW UN SPECIAL ENVOY TO TAJIKISTAN. UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros
Ghali has selected a new special envoy to Tajikistan, according to a 30
April Radio Voice of Free Tajikistan report monitored by the BBC.
Dietrich Mehrer, until now the deputy executive director of the UN Drug
Control program, will replace Ramiro Piriz Ballon. Talks between the
Tajik government and opposition have been on hold since the announcement
of Ballon's departure in early April. -- Bruce Pannier

[As of 12:00 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez

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