Comedy is an escape, not from truth but from despair; a narrow escape into faith. - Christopher Fry

No. 90, Part I, 09 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:


Military District commander Col. Gen. Leontii Kuznetsov declared that in
his view the forthcoming presidential election should be postponed,
Russian and Western agencies reported on 7 May. Kuznetsov argued that
the vote would undermine social stability and "split the Russian
population into two camps." He added that if the opposition comes to
power, it will merely "settle scores instead of changing the political
course." Kuznetsov said many officers in the Moscow Military District
share this view. -- Constantine Dmitriev

tried to downplay the possibility of an alliance with Boris Yeltsin,
saying that the two had to resolve numerous difficult problems,
including Chechnya, economic and social policy, and most importantly,
personnel questions, Russian TV (RTR) reported. However, on 8 May he
said that he was willing to discuss with Yeltsin the possibility of
uniting the democratic candidates, Radio Rossii reported. Yavlinskii
wants to be the prime minister, but Yeltsin is only prepared to offer
him a deputy prime ministerial position, according to Kommersant-Daily
on 7 May. Communist candidate Gennadii Zyuganov said that the
negotiations "are not a surprise" and that they will end Yavlinskii's
career since people will cease to trust him, ITAR-TASS reported. --
Robert Orttung

THIRD FORCE UNRAVELS. The abortive "third force" alliance of Grigorii
Yavlinskii, Aleksandr Lebed, and Svyatoslav Fedorov seems to have
suffered a fatal blow. Fedorov, eye surgeon and leader of the Party of
Workers' Self-Government, said he will not withdraw his presidential
candidacy, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 May. Fedorov advocates what he calls
"popular socialism," in which workers would manage their own
enterprises. Fedorov added that if Communist Party leader Gennadii
Zyuganov were elected president, he might be willing to accept the post
of prime minister. Lebed announced earlier this week that he would not
drop out of the race in favor of Yavlinskii. -- Laura Belin

May sharply criticized the government and Pension Fund for failing to
ensure the timely payment of wages and pensions despite direct
instructions from his office, Radio Rossii reported. The previous day,
Pension Fund head Vasilii Barchuk blamed delays on the government's
failure to pay its debt to the fund, which he said totals 4.6 trillion
rubles for the period 1992-1995 alone. Following the March clampdown on
wage arrears, Yeltsin ordered the elimination of all pension arrears by
the end of April--a goal that has clearly not been met. -- Penny Morvant

regional press agency organized a 6-7 May seminar for 80 television and
60 radio journalists, scheduling meetings with high government officials
and paying all their travel and living expenses, according to the latest
edition of Moskovskie novosti. President Yeltsin told the journalists,
"I am not calling on you to campaign on behalf of candidate Yeltsin, but
I expect from you a responsible attitude toward what is happening in
Russia," Russian Public TV (ORT) reported on 6 May. Procurator-General
Yurii Skuratov promised that his office will pay special attention to
protecting journalists' rights in cases when the victim of a crime, or
the accused, is a journalist. On 7 May, State Press Committee Chairman
Ivan Laptev advised the journalists on obtaining tax and customs
privileges guaranteed under the law on state support for the mass media,
ITAR-TASS reported. -- Laura Belin

YELTSIN'S CHECHEN TRIP IN JEOPARDY? Russian President Boris Yeltsin's
planned visit to Chechnya is "impossible" at present because of security
considerations, Russian Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov told Interfax
in a report cited by AFP on 8 May. On 7 May federal forces captured the
village of Goyskoe, which has been the scene of fighting for several
weeks. The same day Russian helicopters launched a rocket attack on the
raion center of Urus Martan, killing five people in the open-air market;
the Chechen procuracy has begun an investigation. As of 9 May, the town
had been sealed off by Russian troops, according to AFP. Machine gun
fire hit the Grozny home of Chechen Interior Minister Hamid Inalov
during the night of 7-8 May, but no one was injured, according to ITAR-
TASS. On 3 May, Inalov's car was fired on in Urus Martan. -- Liz Fuller

appear to be seeking a way to back down from confrontation over the
espionage incident (see OMRI Daily Digest, 7 May 1996) that has
triggered the threatened expulsion from Russia of nine British
diplomats, Russian and Western agencies reported on 8 May. Reuters
reported that talks are now focusing on the timing and scale of the
diplomats' expulsions. British Ambassador Andrew Wood met with Russian
Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov on 7 May to discuss the issue.
British Foreign Minister Malcolm Rifkind has insisted that Russia has
not substantiated its claim that the nine British embassy staff are
intelligence agents. Meanwhile, the unidentified Russian whose arrest
started the affair has been charged with treason under Article 64 of the
Russian Criminal Code, and could face the death penalty. -- Scott

the 1963 Vienna Convention on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage in a
ceremony at the International Agency for Atomic Energy (IAEA)
headquarters in Vienna, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 May. The convention,
which was never signed by the Soviet Union, is part of the international
regime regulating third-party liability for damage resulting from
civilian nuclear accidents. Under the convention, primary liability for
damage resulting from a nuclear reactor accident rests on the country
operating the reactor. -- Scott Parrish

Emre Gonensay announced Turkey's willingness to fully finance a pipeline
carrying Caspian Sea oil to its Mediterranean port of Ceyhan and
threatened to institute safety measures governing the passage of ships
through the Bosporus Strait if Russia tries to transport oil through it.
Such measures were adopted in 1994 and it is not clear if Gonensay's
remarks imply new measures or a stricter application of existing ones.
Russia officially termed Turkey's position "unacceptable," saying that
the new regulations are a violation of the 1936 Montreux Treaty, and
insisting that Turkey adopt a "modern" navigation system to ensure that
oil spills are avoided, Russian media reported. Gonensay's remarks
reflect Turkey's discomfort with the reallocation of shares in the
Caspian Pipeline Consortium last week, which gave Russia a 44% share in
the project to move Tengiz oil to the Russian port of Novorossiisk. --
Lowell Bezanis

Security Service (FSB) in Krasnoyarsk said on 8 May that the scientist
arrested the previous day in connection with the theft of nuclear
materials was not selling plutonium or any other fissionable material,
ITAR-TASS reported. Contradicting earlier reports, the FSB denied that
the stolen material was radioactive, adding that it was very hard and
heat resistant and could be used to coat ballistic missiles as well as
for civilian purposes. -- Penny Morvant

CANNIBAL KILLS AGAIN. A Russian prisoner on death row murdered a fellow
inmate in a jail in Barnaul in Altai Krai and tried to make soup out of
his liver, Reuters reported on 8 May, citing Interfax. Last July, the
cannibal, Aleksandr Maslich, murdered another fellow prisoner and ate
some of his internal organs. Maslich was convicted on triple murder
charges in 1993 and sentenced to death last year. -- Penny Morvant

MORE HELP FOR DEFENSE PLANTS. President Yeltsin issued a decree on 8 May
raising the status of the State Committee on Defense Industry, headed by
Zinovii Pak, to a government ministry, ITAR-TASS reported. He also
instructed the Finance Ministry to pay off state debts to defense
plants, exempted them from paying taxes until this is done, and promised
help with energy bills. Pak said that about one third of defense plants
are fully state owned, one third are fully privatized, and in one third
the state owns shares. The government now intends to buy back shares in
some of the privatized defense plants. Last month, a new Federal
Commission on Defense Plant Privatization was created under First Deputy
Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets to monitor defense privatization. -- Peter

PENSION FUND OWED 23 TRILLION RUBLES. Social Security Minister Lyudmila
Bezlepkina told a government meeting on 7 May that enterprises owe the
Pension Fund 23 trillion rubles ($4.6 billion), Rossiiskie vesti
reported. She said that last year the Russian government spent $500
million of the state's gold and currency reserves on pensions, but
payments were still delayed by about 20 to 30 days in many parts of the
country. Only about half the country's 89 republics and regions have
received funds for this April's pensions. Bezlepkina said that
responsibility for collecting contributions from enterprises should be
transferred to the State Tax Service. Russia has 37 million pensioners.
-- Penny Morvant

BANK STATISTICS. The Central Bank has now withdraw licenses from 320 of
Russia's 2,599 commercial banks, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 May. Another
465 banks have been warned for violating banking regulations. The banks
have a total equity capital of 13 trillion rubles ($2.6 billion), but
only 5% of banks have equity capital over 20 billion rubles. General
licenses were given to 260 banks, 790 banks have licenses for dealing
with foreign currency, and 205 for operations with precious metals. --
Natalia Gurushina


ARMENIAN PRESIDENT SNUBS SELEZNEV. After staying one day longer than
planned in China, Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossyan stopped off in
Moscow on 7 May for talks on bilateral relations and the Karabakh
conflict with Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin, who is to visit Yerevan later this month, Russian media
reported. Ter-Petrossyan said it would be "neither wise nor
advantageous" for Armenia to join the CIS Customs Union at present,
according to RFE/RL. Meanwhile, a Russian State Duma delegation led by
Speaker Gennadii Seleznev was in Armenia for a two-day visit to meet
with Armenian National Assembly Chairman Babken Ararktsyan and Prime
Minister Hrant Bagratyan. The issue of Karabakh was not on the agenda
since in a previous interview with an Azerbaijani journalist Seleznev
had accused Armenia of "aggression," Noyan Tapan reported. -- Liz Fuller

PRIMAKOV'S KARABAKH DIPLOMACY. Russia Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov
traveled to Baku and then Yerevan on 8 May on what he termed "direct
instructions from President Boris Yeltsin" in an attempt to achieve at
least minimal progress toward a political solution of the Karabakh
conflict, Russian and Western media reported. Following an agreement
between Azerbaijan, Armenia, and the leadership of the self-proclaimed
Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh on an exchange of all prisoners of war,
Primakov brought 34 former Armenian prisoners and one ethnic Russian to
Yerevan; in exchange, Armenia is to release 11 Azerbaijanis, and
Karabakh Armenian authorities a further 59. -- Liz Fuller

DEMIREL IN UZBEKISTAN. Turkish President Suleyman Demirel concluded a
three-day official visit to Tashkent on 9 May during which he signed
agreements on "eternal friendship and cooperation," environmental
protection, and double taxation with his Uzbek counterpart, Islam
Karimov, ITAR-TASS reported. In 1995, Turkish-Uzbek trade was valued at
$280 million, a 75% increase over the previous year, and involves more
than 200 joint ventures. This was Demirel's first visit to Uzbekistan as
Turkish president; Turgut Ozal visited in 1993. -- Roger Kangas

Cola Company announced that it will invest an additional $200 million
into the region over the next three years, RFE/RL reported on 8 May.
Calling it the "next frontier opportunity for soft drinks," Neville
Isdell, president of the company's Greater Europe Group, announced the
opening of a $15 million bottling plant in Almaty, Kazakhstan, as part
of a joint venture with the Turkish Anadolu Group and the Kazakhstani
bottler ToNus. Plants will also open in Bishkek and Tashkent at the cost
of $16 million and $10 million, respectively. Plans are being drawn up
for similar plants in Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, and Armenia. The company
already has plants operating in the Georgian capital Tbilisi (opened in
June 1993) and one in Tashkent (opened March 1994). -- Roger Kangas

CHANGES IN KAZAKHSTANI GOVERNMENT. Kazakhstani President Nursultan
Nazarbayev on 8 May promoted Trade and Industry Minister Garri Shtoik to
the post of first deputy prime minister, RFE/RL and Reuters reported.
Shtoik replaces Vitalii Mette, who left office recently. The choice of
one ethnic German to replace another may not be coincidental as Almaty
appears anxious to have a German presence in the government.
Kazakhstan's sizable German population has the attention and support of
the German government. Nazarbayev also promoted Stepan Shutkin to the
post of head of the government apparatus. -- Bruce Pannier

VIOLENCE CONTINUES IN TAJIKISTAN. Border guards near the Tajik city of
Khorog killed eight alleged rebels who were attempting to cross over
from Afghanistan, Russian TV (RTR) and Reuters reported on 8 May. The
"rebels" were using a route known to be a drug highway from Afghanistan
to destinations in the former Soviet Union and Europe. In the capital,
Dushanbe, Lt. Gen. Kurbon Cholov survived an assassination attempt in
his apartment on 7 May, according to ITAR-TASS. Gunmen using grenade
launchers and small arms fired upon the apartment killing Cholov's chief
of staff and wounding another officer, but Cholov was uninjured. --
Bruce Pannier

[As of 12:00 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez

            Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc.
                      All rights reserved. ISSN 1211-1570
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