I'm going to turn on the light, and we'll be two people in a room looking at each other and wondering why on earth we were afraid of the dark. - Gale Wilhelm
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 92, Part I, 13 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

YELTSIN ANNOUNCES COALITION WITH "THIRD FORCE" CANDIDATES . . .
President Boris Yeltsin announced on 11 May that presidential candidates
Grigorii Yavlinskii, Aleksandr Lebed, and Svyatoslav Fedorov "will join
the president's team," NTV reported. He said that the three are not his
"political rivals" and that they all support a rule-of-law government, a
market economy, and the greatness of Russia. He explained that the
"cooperation" would take various forms and that the three might not have
to withdraw their candidacies, Russian TV (RTR) reported. The three have
tried unsuccessfully to unite their efforts to create a third force
candidate to oppose both Yeltsin and Communist Gennadii Zyuganov.
Yeltsin might replace Defense Minister Pavel Grachev as a concession to
Yavlinskii, Segodnya speculated on 12 May, noting that Col. Gen. Boris
Gromov accompanied the president on his Volga trip. -- Robert Orttung

. . . BUT THIS IS DENIED BY PUTATIVE ALLIES. Yavlinskii denied that he
intended to join any alliance with Yeltsin, terming his remarks
"electoral rhetoric," Obshchaya gazeta reported on 12 May. He said that
"the presidential team is trying to drag me into his entourage" and that
the reports of an alliance are made to "sow confusion among my voters
and in my regional campaign headquarters." Yavlinskii warned that
Yeltsin could not be trusted to make the necessary policy changes that
Yavlinskii cites as a prerequisite for working together. He also
rejected the president's "nomenklatura" approach of handing out jobs and
expecting everyone to be happy. Before the Duma election, Yavlinskii had
seemingly come close to forming an alliance with Russia's Democratic
Choice leader Yegor Gaidar but then pulled back at the last minute.
Lebed said that he could not join an alliance with Yeltsin because "I do
not think that the existing government is any better than the
communists," AFP reported. -- Robert Orttung

FEDOROV DOES NOT WANT TO BE YELTSIN'S "APPRENTICE." Eye surgeon and
presidential candidate Svyatoslav Fedorov told NTV on 11 May that he
would only consider supporting President Yeltsin's re-election if
Yeltsin gives "carte blanche" in economic policy to him and like-minded
economists, including Grigorii Yavlinskii. He said he could not serve in
the government as a virtual "deputy" of the president: "I do not want to
be an apprentice." However, he doubted that Yeltsin would agree to limit
his own powers and not "interfere" in economic matters. In 1991, shortly
after he was elected president, Yeltsin offered Fedorov the post of
prime minister, but Fedorov refused and Yegor Gaidar was eventually
appointed instead. -- Laura Belin

YELTSIN SAYS NO TO TV DEBATES. Speaking in Astrakhan, President Yeltsin
rejected Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov's offer, delivered by
letter on 10 May, to debate him on live television. He explained, "I was
a communist for 30 years and have heard enough of this demagoguery, so
today, with my democratic outlook, I can't stand this demagoguery
anymore," ITAR-TASS reported on 11 May. Yeltsin indicated that he will
not face off against any of his challengers. So many candidates are
calling for debates, he said, that "If I debate every one, I simply
won't have time to fulfill my presidential duties." Incumbent presidents
are frequently reluctant to risk making gaffes or elevating the stature
of their competitors by debating them on television. -- Laura Belin

PATRIARCH ON ELECTIONS . . . During a three-day visit to Komi, Patriarch
Aleksii II said that in the presidential election the Russian people
must make the "right choice" and prevent a return to the religious
repression of the past, Radio Rossii and NTV reported on 10 May.
Although he stressed that the Russian Orthodox Church takes no part in
political battles, his reminders of Soviet-era persecution echoed a
theme sounded frequently by Yeltsin in the run-up to the election.
Citing "reliable sources," NTV reported that the Kremlin was annoyed
that the patriarch had chosen to visit the new Eparchy of Komi, the 51st
in Russia, rather than attend V-E Day celebrations in Moscow. -- Penny
Morvant

. . . AND FOREIGN PREACHERS. In Perm on 12 May, the patriarch called on
local authorities to adopt legislation regulating the activities of
foreign religious organizations "that have nothing in common with
Russia's Orthodox traditions," ITAR-TASS reported. Aleksii argued that
the Duma is unable to pass such a law because both the parliament and
the president are under "strong pressure from the West" not to adopt
legislation restricting foreign proselytizing. According to the
patriarch, 14 regions have already passed laws on foreign sects.
Vyacheslav Polosin, who has participated in drafting new legislation on
freedom of conscience, refuted the allegations that the Duma is under
pressure from the West, Ekho Moskvy reported. He noted that the "overly
strict" and "unconstitutional" draft passed by the Supreme Soviet in
1993 had been opposed by Protestants within Russia as well as by Western
countries. -- Penny Morvant

FRESH HOSTILITIES IN CHECHNYA. Russian forces subjected the town of
Urus-Martan, southwest of Grozny, to air bombardment on 10, 11, and 12
May after Chechen guerrillas fired on Russian military helicopters,
Russian media reported. The head of the local district administration
claimed that the town's population had traditionally not supported
Dzhokhar Dudaev's forces. Russian aircraft also attacked Chechen forces
in the mountain stronghold of Bamut on 12 May. The situation in Vedeno,
which was reportedly occupied by Chechen field commander Shamil Basaev
on 11 May, remains unclear. NTV on 10 May cited unidentified Chechen
field commanders as stating that acting President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev
is ready to hold direct talks with any member of the Russian leadership
who officially denies any connection with Dudaev's death and is
empowered to declare a moratorium on hostilities. On 11 May, Dudaev's
men released Chechen Health Minister Efim Gelman, who had been held
hostage for more than one year, according to Russian Public TV (ORT). --
Liz Fuller

GENERALS FACE PROSECUTION FOR CHECHNYA AMBUSH. Russian Justice Minister
Valentin Kovalev on 12 May blamed Russian military officials for the
heavy loss of life when an army convoy was ambushed in Chechnya on 16
April, and told NTV that they may be prosecuted. Kovalev headed the
commission which investigated the incident, in which he said 73
servicemen were killed, 52 wounded, and three missing. The rebels also
destroyed eight armored vehicles and 20 trucks. Kovalev charged that the
military had not set up checkpoints on the road, nor provided proper air
and artillery cover. He added that the regiment that was attacked had
many untrained and recently deployed soldiers. He said that an
investigation into "criminal negligence on the part of the responsible
officials" is underway. -- Doug Clarke

SOURCES OF FINANCING FOR CHECHEN REBELS. Izvestiya on 13 May published a
summary of what it claimed is a secret Russian government report on how
Chechen separatists have financed their ongoing operations against
federal troops. The document alleges funds diverted from federally-
funded projects in the republic represent a major source of Chechen
rebel financing. Allegations of misuse of reconstruction funds in
Chechnya have been widespread in the past. The document claims that
other major sources of financing for the rebels are contributions from
the Chechen diaspora, operations of Russian commercial banks controlled
by the "Chechen-Ingush" mafia, and donations by foreign Muslim
organizations based in the Middle East. -- Scott Parrish

FIRST MAYORAL CANDIDATES REGISTERED IN MOSCOW. Moscow Mayor Yurii
Luzhkov and the former head of the local Communist Party organization,
Aleksandr Krasnov, were the first two candidates to submit the required
number of nomination signatures to register for the 16 June mayoral
election, Ekho Moskvy and Russian TV (RTR) reported on 12 May.
Candidates must submit 70,000 signatures or 1% of the total number of
eligible voters. Aleksandr Krasnov sided with the rebellious parliament
in its clash with the president in October 1993, and was appointed for a
short time as Moscow administration head by former vice president and
rebel leader Aleksandr Rutskoi. -- Anna Paretskaya

RUSSIA, CHINA MAKE JOINT PROPOSAL AT ASEAN FORUM. Russia and China
proposed a security concept for the Asia-Pacific region at a Jakarta
meeting of the ASEAN forum on regional security, ITAR-TASS reported on
10 May. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Panov said the
proposed concept was based on the five-power border security agreement
signed in Shanghai on 26 April. Panov later reiterated that Russia wants
a role in any future talks on a Korean settlement. He added that the
recent closure of the Kraskino rail crossing between Russia and North
Korea was a "purely commercial" matter caused by unpaid North Korean
debts, and had no political overtones. Meanwhile, U.S. Undersecretary of
State Winston Lord told ITAR-TASS that the U.S. supports Russia's
application for membership in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation
Organization (APEC), which has had a moratorium on new members for the
past year. -- Scott Parrish

U.S. BUSINESSMAN EXPELLED FROM KAMCHATKA. In the third espionage
incident within a week, the Federal Security Service (FSB) has ordered
the expulsion from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskii of Richard Oppfelt, head of
Seattle Medical Export, for "activities damaging to Russian national
security interests," Russian and Western agencies reported on 12 May.
Following on the heels of espionage rows with Britain and Estonia, this
latest incident has intensified speculation that the FSB is deliberately
engineering arrests and expulsions so as to bolster President Yeltsin's
re-election campaign. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIAN-NATO TALKS IN BRUSSELS. Russian Ambassador to NATO Vitalii
Churkin met with his counterparts from the 16 member-states of the
alliance on 10 May to discuss ongoing IFOR operations in Bosnia and
disputed provisions of the 1990 CFE treaty, Reuters and AFP reported. No
progress was reported, however, toward breaking the deadlock over the
CFE "flank limits," which restrict Russia's holdings of heavy military
equipment along its northern and southern borders. Western diplomats had
hoped to hammer out a compromise before the opening of a CFE review
conference in Vienna on 15 May. -- Scott Parrish

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

PRIMAKOV IN THE TRANSCAUCASUS. Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii
Primakov traveled from Yerevan to Baku on 10 May, taking with him 67
Azerbaijani prisoners of war and hostages released by the Armenian
authorities, Russian media reported. During talks with Azerbaijani
President Heidar Aliev, both men affirmed their commitment to
maintaining the existing two-year ceasefire in Karabakh. On 12 May,
Primakov flew to Tbilisi, where he held talks with Georgian President
Eduard Shevardnadze on South Ossetiya and Abkhazia. Shevardnadze
subsequently praised Russia's mediating role and Russian-Georgian
relations, according to ITAR-TASS. -- Liz Fuller

IRAN FINALLY AGREES TO STAKE IN SHAH-DENIZ. Iran has finally accepted
Azerbaijan's offer of a 10% stake in the international consortium formed
to develop its Shah-Deniz off-shore Caspian oil and gas deposits, Natik
Aliev, chairman of Azerbaijan's state oil company, said in an Interfax
report cited by AFP on 12 May. The offer was made last year as
compensation for the Azerbaijani government's withdrawal, under U.S.
pressure, of a previous offer to Iran to participate in the Western
consortium formed to exploit the Shirag, Azeri, and Gyuneshli fields. --
Liz Fuller

HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT ON UZBEKISTAN. Human Rights Watch/Helsinki has
issued a report on Uzbekistan in which it states that while "well-
publicized arrests, detentions, and beatings of political dissidents"
have "decreased markedly," basic civil liberties "remain suspended,"
Reuters reported on 13 May. Surveillance of individuals and media
censorship are still commonplace. In particular, the organization
expressed its concern over measures taken against members of the
country's Islamic community. The report comes at a time when foreign
governments, including the U.S., have noted an improvement in
Uzbekistan's human rights record. -- Roger Kangas

NAZARBAYEV IN TEHRAN. Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev visited
Tehran on 12-13 May to sign an agreement with his Iranian counterpart,
Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, whereby Kazakhstan will export crude oil to
Iran in exchange for help in refining and transporting Kazakhstani oil
through Iranian ports, Russian and Western media reported. Oil exports
are expected to amount to 2 million metric tons per year in the initial
stages, with an expected increase to 6 million tons in 10 years. This is
the latest in a series of pipeline deals that Kazakhstan has signed,
including a deal signed on 27 April with Russia (see OMRI Daily Digest,
29 April 1996). -- Roger Kangas

"JUNCTION FOR PLANET' OPENS ON TURKMEN-IRANIAN BORDER. The greatly
publicized rail link between Turkmenistan and Iran was officially opened
on 13 May, according to Western and Russian sources. The 300 km line,
agreed to in 1991, will for the first time connect Iran to the Central
Asian rail network, and is expected to cut travel time between Europe
and southeast Asia by up to 10 days. Iranian President Akbar Hashemi
Rafsanjani and his Turkmen counterpart, Saparmurad Niyazov, hosted an
opening ceremony for the line attended by 12 heads of state and 700
other officials and journalists. The $216 million Meshhed-Sarakhs-
Tedzhen railway will be used by some 500,000 passengers and 2 million
metric tons of goods in its first year of operation, and those figures
are expected to rise in the near future, Reuters reported. -- Bruce
Pannier

"FIERCE" FIGHTING IN TAVIL-DARA. Tajik government troops and opposition
fighters have been locked in "fierce" combat for several days, according
to ITAR-TASS. The fighting, which began on 8 May, has spread and the
opposition has now reportedly took the town of Tavil-Dara on 12 May. The
opposition claims to have killed 45 government soldiers and taken 10
more prisoner, and captured several military vehicles and artillery
pieces. The Tajik government has not confirmed any of these claims. --
Bruce Pannier

[As of 12:00 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez

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