The person who knows how to laugh at himself will never cease to be amused. - Shirley MacLaine
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 94, Part I, 15 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

BASAEV THREATENS YELTSIN; PEACE TALKS TO BEGIN SOON. Following a meeting
on 14 May of the Russian government commission charged with implementing
President Boris Yeltsin's Chechen peace proposals, Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin said that peace talks could begin within days, Russian
media reported. Ekho Moskvy reported that in the initial stage, which
will exclude Doku Zavgaev's pro-Moscow leadership, the talks will focus
on military issues. The Zavgaev group will be included in later
political and economic discussions. It is unclear whether the commission
discussed Yeltsin's proposed visit to Chechnya. Chechen field commander
Shamil Basaev said Yeltsin's visit to Chechnya constitutes an insult to
the Chechen people, and that "we intend to give him such a warm welcome
that he will never leave," NTV reported. Also on 14 May, Russian
military aircraft continued their bombardment of the villages of Bamut
and Stary Achkhoi, according to ORT. -- Liz Fuller

ZYUGANOV PROMISES NO WHOLESALE NATIONALIZATION OR REPRESSION. Communist
Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov pledged to support a mixed economy and
not to renationalize privatized enterprises as long as they "pay their
taxes honestly and properly" in a 14 May free air time appearance on
Radio Yunost monitored by the BBC. He explained, "If you start taking
things away tomorrow, then I can assure you the result will be turmoil
worse than in Chechnya." Zyuganov also promised that persecution of
political opponents will be prohibited by law if he is elected. He
observed, "proper democratic development is impossible without political
competition and opposition. The [Communist Party of the Soviet Union]
rotted and fell apart because it just couldn't remove from office a
general secretary who sold it out and betrayed it." -- Laura Belin

LEBED APPEALS TO "ORDINARY PEOPLE." During a 14 May free air time
campaign appearance on Radio Mayak, Aleksandr Lebed said he belongs to
no party and stands for the 60% of the electorate who are "ordinary
people" and who support neither President Yeltsin nor Communist Party
leader Gennadii Zyuganov. In his broadcast, reported by the BBC, Lebed
slammed the bureaucrats who have brought Russia crime, corruption, and
"nomenklatura capitalism." He promised to help citizens "win our freedom
with sensible laws." Appearing on RTR the same day, the marginal
presidential candidate Martin Shakkum said experts at the Reform
Foundation, which he helped found along with Stanislav Shatalin, have
the political and economic knowledge to tackle corruption and other
problems facing Russia. -- Laura Belin

BABURIN: GOVERNMENT SHOULD NOT CHANGE CONSIDERABLY AFTER ELECTION. Duma
Deputy Speaker Sergei Baburin, leader of the nationalist Russian Public
Union (ROS), said that a considerable number of the professionals who
are now in the government should keep their positions regardless of the
presidential election results, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 May. Since
Baburin regards professionalism as more important than political
affiliation, he says a new government should be formed that retains the
most competent member of the present administration. He also supports
the election of a new president and considers Communist Party leader
Gennadii Zyuganov to be the best candidate. In early April, Baburin, who
was running for the Duma as number two on the party list of Nikolai
Ryzhkov's unsuccessful Power to the People bloc as well as in a single-
mandate district, joined the "popular-patriotic bloc" supporting
Zyuganov. -- Anna Paretskaya

AGRICULTURE MINISTER REAPPOINTED. President Yeltsin on 14 May
reappointed Viktor Khlystun to the post of agriculture minister, ORT
reported. Khlystun first held this office from 1991 to the fall of 1994,
when he was dismissed under pressure from the agrarian lobby in the
Duma, which accused him of not doing enough to help state farms.
Khlystun was replaced by Aleksandr Nazarchuk, a member of the Agrarian
Party (APR) and champion of state support for agriculture. Nazarchuk was
fired in a government reshuffle in January, and Deputy Prime Minister
Aleksandr Zaveryukha, another agrarian, was made acting minister.
Zaveryukha was subsequently forced out of the APR for his part in
drafting a presidential decree allowing the sale of farmland. Before his
reappointment, Khlystun served as first vice president of the commercial
Agroprombank. Also on 14 May, the second congress of the Union of
Landowners, which supports the private ownership of farmland, called on
rural dwellers to vote for Yeltsin. -- Penny Morvant and Laura Belin

CASE OPENS IN JOURNALIST'S DEATH. A court case opened in Stavropol Krai
concerning the death of Russian journalist Natalya Alyakina in June
1995, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 May. Alyakina, a correspondent for the
German magazine Focus, was allowed to pass through a checkpoint near the
southern Russian city of Budennovsk on 17 June during a hostage crisis.
However, moments later two shots were fired at her car. The soldier who
fired the fatal shots has been charged with carelessly handling a
firearm. According to Oleg Panfilov of the Glasnost Defense Foundation,
this case marks the first time since the war in Chechnya began that a
person responsible for a journalist's death has been brought to trial.
Since December 1994, 18 Russian and foreign journalists have been killed
while covering events in Chechnya. -- Laura Belin

FSB: LYSENKO BLEW UP HIS OWN OFFICE. Former Duma deputy Nikolai Lysenko
was arrested on 13 May on charges of staging an attack on his own
office, ITAR-TASS reported. Lysenko's Duma office suffered more than 100
million rubles' ($20,800) worth of damage on 5 December last year when a
home-made bomb went off in a briefcase (see OMRI Daily Digest, 6 and 7
December 1995). The Federal Security Service, which investigated the
incident, said that Lysenko, leader of the extremist National Republican
Party of Russia, and an aide, Mikhail Rogozin, had planned the attack.
At the time, Lysenko blamed it on the "Caucasian mafia." Rogozin was
arrested on 18 April. Lysenko is known for his extreme views and
scandalous behavior. -- Penny Morvant

RUSSIAN, BELARUSIAN MILITARY OFFICIALS MEET . . . The collegiums of the
Russian and Belarusian Defense ministries signed 10 military cooperation
agreements at a 13-14 May meeting in Moscow, ITAR-TASS reported. Among
the accords were a protocol on creating a single regional air defense
system, a concept for a joint defense policy, joint training, and joint
use of military bases and facilities. -- Doug Clarke

. . . GRACHEV ON NATO EXPANSION. While denying that current Russian-
Belarusian military cooperation is aimed against NATO, Grachev added
that the two countries are prepared to take certain countermeasures if
the alliance expands, Russian media reported. The defense minister
declared that the deployment of "a powerful Russian-Belarusian military
force" had not been ruled out as one possible response to NATO
enlargement, a view he said was shared by Belarusian president
Alyaksandr Lukashenka. Grachev expressed special concern that Polish and
Lithuanian membership in NATO would isolate the Russian enclave of
Kaliningrad. But Grachev was careful to keep his threats conditional,
saying that countermeasures would only be implemented if NATO ignores
Russian objections to its expansion. -- Scott Parrish

BORDER GUARDS FIRE AT JAPANESE TRAWLERS. Russian patrol boats on 13 May
fired warning shots at 10 Japanese trawlers that were about to enter
Russian territorial waters near the disputed southern Kuril Islands,
Western agencies reported the next day, citing Interfax. Five rounds of
Russian-Japanese talks on fishing rights in the waters around the
islands have failed to produce agreement, leading to a series of
incidents in which Russian patrols have fired upon Japanese fishing
vessels, including one last September that wounded a Japanese fisherman.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Panov told ITAR-TASS on 11 May
that the sixth round of the fishing talks is scheduled to open in Moscow
in 2-3 weeks. -- Scott Parrish

FOREIGN MINISTRY BLASTS ESTONIA. In the latest salvo in the ongoing war
of words between Moscow and Tallinn, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman
Grigorii Karasin accused Estonia of continuing "to undermine relations
with Russia," ITAR-TASS reported on 14 May. Blaming Estonia for the
current strained state of bilateral ties, Karasin cited public
statements by Estonian Ambassador to Russia Mart Helme that he claimed
"go beyond...accepted diplomatic norms." He also complained that Estonia
has not responded to Russian requests to establish additional polling
stations for Russian citizens living in Estonia to vote in the June
presidential election. Meanwhile, on 14 May Komsomolskaya pravda
published an article detailing allegations by the Federal Security
Service (FSB) that the Estonian volunteer defense force Kaitseliit had
provided arms and explosives to the IRA. Estonian officials have denied
the charges. -- Scott Parrish

SATELLITE DESTROYED IN ROCKET BLAST. A Russian booster Soyuz U carrying
on board a Kosmos-type military satellite exploded five minutes after
take off from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, ITAR-TASS and AFP
reported on 14 May. Under the Russian-American SPIN-2 project, which was
signed in July 1995 by the Russian firm Sovinformsputnik and the U.S.
company Aerial Images, the satellite was to take high-resolution
photographs of parts of the U.S. The explosion is believed to have been
caused by a structural flaw in the booster's front shield. The project
was insured for $2,7 million. In March 1996, Russia lost three more
communications satellites launched under the Russian-Israeli and
Russian-Mexican projects in a similar accident at the Plessetsk
Cosmodrome in northern Russia. -- Natalia Gurushina

INDUSTRIALISTS' CONGRESS OPENS. The seventh congress of the Russian
Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs convened in Moscow on 14 May,
NTV reported. The union's chairman, Arkadii Volskii, criticized the
government's privatization policy and called for price controls on
energy and transport. Volskii complained that Zbigniew Brzezinski has
removed Russia from his list of great powers, and warned that "Americans
should not put their feet on the table in Russia." Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin told the congress participants that taxes will be lowered
in 1997. On 16 May, the political party formed by the union, the United
Industrial Party, is expected to declare its support for President
Yeltsin. The union has 4,500 firms as members. While it has not been
very successful in establishing its presence as the centrist force in
Russian politics, it has some backdoor lobbying power. The current
economics minister, Yevgenii Yasin, was formerly the head of the union's
Expert Institute. -- Peter Rutland

NEW BOOK PREDICTS ECONOMIC BOOM IN RUSSIA. Russia will become a leading
industrial power by the end of the century, provided there are no major
political changes in the country, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 May, citing a
new book by the director of the Center for Economic Research of the
London School of Economics and Political Science, Richard Layard, and
deputy editor of The Economist, John Parker. The authors argue that
Russia has passed the most difficult transitory period in its recent
history and is on the eve of a period of an unprecedented economic
growth. They say Russia's rich mineral resources, huge intellectual
potential, and unique geographical position will be the most important
factors in its future success. -- Natalia Gurushina

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

TROOPS FIRE ON DEMONSTRATORS IN NORTHERN TAJIKISTAN . . . Five people
died during a demonstration in the northern Tajik city of Ura-Tyube on
14 May after troops fired on the crowd of about 200 people, ITAR-TASS
reported. The demonstration began the day before as people gathered
outside the local administration building to protest the killing of a
businessman the previous day. On 14 May, the demonstrators began
breaking windows and started fires at the administration building, the
chief prosecutor's office, a militia building, and the mayor's house.
AFP reported that some of the protesters were armed. Reinforcements from
the Tajik Interior Ministry are being sent to the city. The disturbance
comes as demonstrations involving thousands are going on in the Tajik
city of Khojent and fighting continued between government and opposition
forces in the Tavil-Dara region. -- Bruce Pannier

. . . RUSSIA EXPRESSES CONCERN. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman
Grigorii Karasin said on 14 May that his government is gravely concerned
at "the deteriorating situation in Tajikistan," according to ITAR-TASS.
Karasin did not say how far Russia would go to protect Tajik President
Imomali Rakhmonov's government but did state that events in Tajikistan
have "a direct effect on the strategic interests of Russia." Russian
Defense Minister Pavel Grachev ruled out the possibility of Russian
military involvement in the Tavil-Dara fighting but did say Russian
troops had been ordered "to guard and defend state and important
military facilities," ORT reported. -- Bruce Pannier

ECO SUMMIT RUMPUS. Amidst much acrimony, a two-day summit of the 10-
member Economic Cooperation Organization opened in Ashgabat on 14 May,
Reuters reported. Following talks between the foreign ministers of
member states earlier in the week, heads of state agreed to expand the
organization's structure and move ahead with revising the founding
treaty. A 22-point Ashgabat declaration calling for priority action in
transport and communications, trade and energy was also signed. Irked by
Iran's verbal attacks on Israel, Uzbek President Islam Karimov
threatened to withdraw his country from the grouping, indicating he
opposes "transforming the organization into a military-political unit."
Karimov's position was supported by his counterparts from Kazakhstan
(who left the summit early) and Tajikistan. The ECO was founded in the
1960s by Iran, Turkey, and Pakistan and in 1992 expanded to include all
the former Soviet Central Asian republics plus Afghanistan and
Azerbaijan. -- Lowell Bezanis

[As of 12:00 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez

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