The greatest of faults, I should say, is to be conscious of none. - Thomas Carlyle 1975-1881
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 93, Part I, 14 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

YAVLINSKII ANNOUNCES PROGRAM. Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii made
public his campaign program "I choose freedom" on 12 May, laying out
plans for the first 730 days of his presidency if he is elected,
Nezavisimaya gazeta reported. He plans to stop the Chechen war within
the first 100 days, and will take measures to halt the implementation of
President Yeltsin's plans to rebuild the Chechen economy and organize
the relocation of all who want to leave the republic. Chechnya's status
will be decided by a referendum. Between November 1996 and April 1997,
he plans to increase the minimum wage three times, average government
salaries two times, average pensions and stipends two times, and aid for
children five times. In later months, he would carry out tax, bank, and
land reforms, full economic union with the other CIS countries, put a
halt to inflation and increase production. He claimed that prosperity
will only come in 10-15 years, Izvestiya reported on 14 May. -- Robert
Orttung

ZYUGANOV LEADS FIELD IN OFFICIALLY REPORTED FINANCING. Communist leader
Gennadii Zyuganov has 1.6 billion rubles ($300,000) in his campaign war
chest, ahead of President Yeltsin's 1.4 billion as of 5 May, Segodnya
reported 13 May. Zyuganov has spent 773 million, 606 million of which
was on printed materials. He has not spent any money on the mass media
since 25 April. Yeltsin provided no spending figures. Candidates are
limited to collecting 19 billion during the course of the campaign. The
officially published figures do not reflect the candidates' actual
spending. Although many of the official reports from the Duma election
campaign were understated, no charges have been brought for
irregularities. -- Robert Orttung

CAMPAIGN STARTS IN ELECTRONIC MEDIA. The 11 registered presidential
candidates may air free and paid political advertisements on radio and
television beginning on 14 May. During the next month, each candidate
will receive a total of 30 minutes of free air time on Russian Public TV
(ORT), Russian TV (RTR), and St. Petersburg Channel 5. In addition, all
contenders will receive free time on Radio Mayak, Radio Rossii, Radio 1,
Radio Yunost, and more than 80 state-run regional radio and television
companies, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 May. The candidates may not buy more
than 30 minutes of paid advertising on ORT, RTR, or St. Petersburg
Channel 5, but these limits do not apply to the independent electronic
media. -- Laura Belin

RTR MARKS FIVE YEARS ON THE AIR. Visiting the studios of state-run
Russian TV (RTR) to mark the fifth anniversary since the network went on
the air, President Yeltsin heralded the network's contribution to free
speech and warned of the danger of a Communist comeback, ITAR-TASS
reported on 13 May. He also praised former RTR Chairman Oleg Poptsov,
who headed the network from its creation until Yeltsin fired him in
February of this year. Yeltsin said he viewed RTR "as my own child," and
the network has supported him at crucial moments, such as the August
1991 coup and the October 1993 violent confrontation with hard-line
parliamentary opponents. Its current news coverage is usually but not
always favorable to Yeltsin. Eduard Sagalaev, whom Yeltsin appointed to
replace Poptsov, described his network's character as "unsubmissive" and
"self-willed," not unlike the president's own personality, NTV reported.
-- Laura Belin

OSCE TO MEDIATE IN CHECHNYA? Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin
has asked the OSCE to make contacts with the Chechen separatist
leadership on behalf of the Russian government commission charged with
implementing President Yeltsin's peace plan, Reuters reported on 13 May,
quoting Interfax. Also on 13 May, ITAR-TASS reported that the
Confederation of Peoples of the Caucasus had also offered to mediate a
settlement. Following the arrest in Moscow on 4 May of Chechen Deputy
Prime Minister Beslan Gantemirov on charges of embezzling up to 7
million rubles intended for reconstruction in Chechnya, 20 of
Gantemirov's associates have been arrested in Grozny on related charges,
Russian Public TV (ORT) reported on 13 May. -- Liz Fuller

ST. PETERSBURG MAYORAL CANDIDATES CONSOLIDATE. Three candidates in the
19 May St. Petersburg mayoral election have set up a coalition, Russian
TV (RTR) reported on 13 May. Former Deputy Mayor Vyacheslav Shcherbakov
and local Yabloko leader Igor Artemev withdrew from the race in favor of
Vladimir Yakovlev, who for the last three years has been the chairman of
the city's Economy Committee and Mayor Anatolii Sobchak's first deputy.
Another two mayoral candidates, Aleksandr Belyaev and Yurii Boldyrev,
may also join the coalition. Last week, the regional branches of several
democratic parties refused to back Sobchak and called on his main rivals
to rally behind a single candidate (see OMRI Daily Digest, 10 May 1996).
-- Anna Paretskaya

EU ENDORSES "ACTION PLAN" FOR RUSSIA. EU foreign ministers agreed to an
"action plan" of assistance for Russia on 14 May, Russian and Western
agencies reported. The plan, which EU officials admitted is largely a
repackaging of existing programs, is more important as a symbol of
Western support for President Yeltsin than as a significant shift in EU
policy. It does, however, call for an intensified EU-Moscow dialogue on
European security, an important step given Moscow's continuing
opposition to NATO expansion. Meanwhile, in another sign of Western
support for Yeltsin, IMF Director-General Michel Camdessus said the
election of Communist candidate Gennadii Zyuganov would disrupt Russian
economic reform. He implied that the IMF would reconsider its recent
$10.2 billion loan to Russia if Zyuganov pursued renationalization
policies. -- Scott Parrish

SPY SCANDAL ROUNDUP. U.S. Embassy officials told RFE/RL on 13 May that
they are still trying to determine why U.S. businessman Richard Oppfelt
was expelled from Russia for spying. According to some Russian reports,
Oppfelt's expulsion followed his arrest and detention for trying to
purchase classified information on Russian naval installations in the
Far East. But anonymous Russian diplomatic sources told ITAR-TASS that
Oppfelt was never arrested, and had departed Russia voluntarily
following warnings from Russian security officials. Meanwhile, NTV
reported on 12 May that the unidentified British agent whose arrest
triggered the ongoing espionage row between Moscow and London is a
"young, talented, and promising" Russian diplomat, whose motivations
were financial, not ideological. Negotiations seeking a compromise
resolution of the dispute, over which Russia has threatened to expel up
to nine British diplomats, continue. -- Scott Parrish

TURKEY SQUEEZES RUSSIA ON STRAITS ISSUE. Turkish President Suleyman
Demirel said his country will not grant Russia passage through the
Bosporus Strait if Moscow attempts to increase the tonnage carried by
its oil tankers Trud reported on 13 May. The same day, the Turkish
Foreign Ministry announced that Turkey recognizes 1936 Montreux Treaty
governing passage through the straits but implied that "necessary
measures" could be adopted if needed. Two days earlier, Cumhuriyet
quoted the "voluntary coordinator" of the "Straits Monitoring Group,"
retired Ambassador Ismail Soysal, as saying "the treaty can be amended."
Turkish Foreign Minister Emre Gonensay also hinted of "new measures" for
oil and cargo vessels in a 14 May interview with the Turkish Daily News.
-- Lowell Bezanis

EMPLOYMENT SERVICE HEAD SACKED. President Yeltsin issued a decree on 13
May dismissing Federal Employment Service head Fedor Prokopev for the
inefficient use and misuse of funds intended to create jobs, ITAR-TASS
reported. An inspection by the president's Main Control Administration
showed that on 1 December 1995 the fund had 15.4 billion rubles ($3.3
million) on deposit in commercial banks at low interest rates and had
not recovered 6.4 billion rubles whose term of deposit had run out (fund
money should be kept in the state bank). In 1995, only 1.96 trillion
rubles (34%) of total spending on the service went on "active employment
policies," whereas 1.39 trillion (24%) was spent on upkeep, information
services, and capital investment. Lack of control by central staff, the
report continued, resulted in numerous abuses: money was diverted to
bonuses, food allowances, interest-free loans, and real estate
investment. Cracking down on official abuses is a key plank of Yeltsin's
campaign platform. -- Penny Morvant

CRIME REPORTER KILLED. Viktor Mikhailov, a crime reporter for the
Siberian daily Zabaikalskii rabochii, was murdered on 11 May in Chita,
Russian and Western agencies reported. Mikhailov wrote on crime and the
work of law enforcement agencies in Siberia. According to the Glasnost
Defense Foundation, 10 journalists have been killed in Russia in 1996,
four of them in Chechnya. -- Penny Morvant

APRIL PENSIONS PAID. A Pension Fund representative told ITAR-TASS on 13
May that the fund had met its obligations regarding April pensions by 8
May. She added that expenditure on pensions will increase by 1.9
trillion rubles this month because of the rise in pensions and
compensation payments, while contributions from employers will be lower
than in April because of the May holidays. On 8 May, President Yeltsin
sharply criticized the government and Pension Fund for failing to pay
pensions on time (see OMRI Daily Digest, 9 May 1996). The minimum
monthly pension went up by 10% to 69,575 rubles ($14) on 1 May and
compensation payments for the poorest pensioners were doubled. -- Penny
Morvant

20TH ANNIVERSARY OF MOSCOW HELSINKI GROUP MARKED. Human rights activists
held a coordinating conference in Moscow from 11 to 13 May to mark the
20th anniversary of the creation of the Moscow Helsinki Group, Ekspress-
khronikha reported. The meeting was opened by the group's first head,
Yurii Orlov, and addressed by several other prominent activists,
including the group's current head Lyudmila Alekseeva, Larisa Bogoraz,
Sergei Kovalev, and Sergei Sirotkin. President Yeltsin sent greetings to
the forum, expressing the hope that the differences between the
administration and human rights activists would not prevent them from
uniting in the run-up to the presidential election, NTV reported. Human
rights groups are bitterly opposed to the Russian military operation in
Chechnya but equally reluctant to see the Communists return to power. --
Penny Morvant

DEFENSE PLANTS ARE PAID OFF. Zinovii Pak, the newly-promoted defense
industry minister, said on 13 May that 2.8 trillion rubles ($560
million) has been released to start paying off the government's 6
trillion ruble debt to the defense industry, ITAR-TASS reported on 13
May. President Yeltsin ordered on 8 May that all governmental debts to
Russia's 1,700 defense plants accumulated over the past two years be
paid by the end of May (see OMRI Daily Digest, 9 May 1996). Pak said
that the Defense Ministry has been authorized to take credits of 5
trillion rubles from commercial banks to finance this year's weapons
orders. Russia exports most of its current arms production; Pak said
that certain categories of equipment (such as armored personnel carriers
and SMERCH rockets) will not be purchased for the Russian forces at all
this year. Defense plants will also take part in the program for
transferring housing to local councils, some of which is funded by the
World Bank. -- Peter Rutland

RUSSIA CALLS FOR UNIFIED CIS ENERGY POLICY . . . Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin told a CIS conference on "energy security" in Moscow on 13
May that Western companies are trying to win control of the region's
energy reserves and pose a threat to the security of the CIS, NTV
reported. He urged the creation of an OPEC-style body for the CIS to
coordinate energy production, export, taxation, and pipelines. These
statements do not reflect a change in Russian policy but make explicit
what has been the de facto policy in recent years--suspicion of Western
investment and pressure on CIS partners. Moscow has leverage due to the
fact that CIS countries owe it $2.4 billion for natural gas and $600
million for other energy deliveries, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 May.
Chernomyrdin said that Russia intends to increase the share of gas in
its total energy production from the current 44% up to 56% by the year
2010, Russian TV (RTR) reported on 13 May. -- Peter Rutland

. . . WHILE WESTERN OILMEN LOOK ON. Also on 13 May, Chernomyrdin
addressed the Russian-American oil club, where representatives from 27
Russian and U.S. energy companies signed a "memorandum of
understanding." Fuel and Energy Minister Yurii Shafranik said that the
companies involved have signed deals worth $25 billion, but in reality
progress in the Timano-Pechora and Sakhalin off-shore projects is
proceeding very slowly. -- Peter Rutland

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

MUTALIBOV NOT TO BE EXTRADITED. Former Azerbaijani President Ayaz
Mutalibov was released from custody in Moscow on 13 May after one month
of detention, Russian media reported. The Azerbaijani authorities'
request that he be extradited to face charges of organizing mass
disorder and attempting to seize power in Azerbaijan has been rejected
by the Russian Procurator-General's Office due to a lack of sufficient
evidence. -- Liz Fuller

TAJIK GOVERNMENT CLAIMS TO HAVE HALTED REBEL ADVANCE. The Tajik
government says that its troops have stopped the advance of opposition
forces in the Tavil-Dara area, ITAR-TASS and Reuters reported. In this
latest round of attacks, the rebel forces were able to capture the town
of Tavil-Dara itself, which was confirmed by sources within the Tajik
government, according to the ITAR-TASS report. The same report claims
that the Tajik government is "fully resolved to regain their positions
and dislodge opposition militants" from the area. Russian soldiers of
the 201st Motorized Battalion have been put on high alert, but this
action may be due to statements from the commander of the Russian border
guards, Pavel Tarasenko, who told NTV on 13 May that between 2,500-3,000
opposition fighters have recently massed along border areas with
Afghanistan. -- Bruce Pannier

DEMONSTRATIONS IN NORTH TAJIKISTAN. At least 6,000 people in Northern
Tajikistan rallied on 13 May demanding better living conditions, RFE/RL
reported. The demonstration was begun the previous day by about 250
people. The crowd is demanding more reliable supplies of food, equal
distribution of humanitarian aid and recognition of the Khojent region
as a free economic zone.  The most recent reports make no mention of any
violence. ITAR-TASS reports that similar rallies were held in Tursun
Zade and Kurgan-Tyube in April but the number of people involved was
only in the dozens. -- 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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