In general, mankind, since the improvement of cookery, eats twice as much as nature requires. - Ben Franklin
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 95, Part I, 16 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

FEDERATION COUNCIL REJECTS LAW ON ELECTION MONITORING. The Federation
Council rejected a bill that would have given private citizens the right
to monitor elections, arguing that such a system would be too expensive
and would interfere in regional affairs, Russian Public TV (ORT)
reported on 15 May. Federation Council member A. Ronetskii was harshly
critical of the bill's author, Yabloko member Viktor Sheinis, charging
that Moscow deputies are trying to tell the people in the provinces how
to live. The upper house also rejected the idea of allowing local courts
to declare an election invalid within their territorial jurisdiction,
ITAR-TASS reported. The two houses will now set up a conciliatory
committee to resolve their differences. Meanwhile, President Boris
Yeltsin rejected a proposed law on the transfer of power, saying it did
not make clear whether the new president would "replace" the former
president's administration or merely "reorganize" it. -- Robert Orttung

DUMA TAKES UP ORT--AGAIN. The State Duma requested that the president,
government, and Procurator-General's Office review the results of an
audit of Russian Public TV's (ORT) finances, ITAR-TASS reported on 15
May. The audit, ordered by the Duma last October, found that the 51%
state-owned network misused budgetary and non-budgetary funds. For
instance, ORT allegedly paid its bills to private companies on time, but
failed to do so for services provided by state-run companies. In 1995,
the Duma twice passed laws to nullify the creation of ORT, which took
place under a November 1994 presidential decree. However, President
Yeltsin vetoed the laws, and in November the Constitutional Court
refused to hear an appeal from Duma deputies on the matter (see OMRI
Daily Digest, 6 April, 8 June, and 6 November 1995). -- Laura Belin

CONTROVERSY SURROUNDING ZYUGANOV STATEMENT. Spokesmen for the Communist
Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) appeared on NTV to refute
comments Gennadii Zyuganov allegedly made to the Far East newspaper
Amurskaya pravda. The paper quoted Zyuganov as saying that if he is
elected, he will not take orders from Valentin Kuptsov, deputy leader of
the KPRF Duma faction, Albert Makashov, one of the leaders of the
October 1993 revolt against Yeltsin, and "other odious figures in the
KPRF leadership." However, Kuptsov dismissed the interview as a
"falsification," and KPRF Duma deputy Anatolii Lukyanov said that for
Zyuganov, "the collective opinion of the party is law." Also on 15 May,
Kemerovo Oblast legislature chairman and "reserve" Communist
presidential candidate Aman Tuleev joined Zyuganov on the campaign trail
in Perm, where Tuleev pledged to withdraw his candidacy before the June
election in favor of Zyuganov, Pravda reported on 16 May. -- Laura Belin

YELTSIN, FEDOROV DISCUSS CREATING COALITION GOVERNMENT. President Boris
Yeltsin and presidential candidate Svyatoslav Fedorov met and discussed
creating a coalition government, Russian media reported on 15 May.
Fedorov suggested that Yeltsin form a "government of national unity" in
between the first round of the presidential election, scheduled for 16
June, and the runoff, which will probably take place on 7 July. He said
he would accept the post of prime minister if such a government were
created. (Fedorov declined to accept that job when Yeltsin offered it to
him in autumn 1991.) Yeltsin said he would "thoroughly examine"
Fedorov's proposal. One ITAR-TASS commentator suggested that even if
presidential hopefuls like Fedorov and Grigorii Yavlinskii do not
withdraw their candidacies before 16 June, their support afterwards
could give Yeltsin a "second wind" in the runoff. -- Laura Belin

CHERNOMYRDIN MEETS WITH ZHIRINOVSKY. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin
had an unplanned meeting with presidential candidate Vladimir
Zhirinovsky behind closed doors on 15 May, ITAR-TASS reported. Earlier
in the day, Zhirinovsky predicted that Yeltsin would win the election
and that he or Zyuganov would come in second, RTR reported. -- Robert
Orttung

FEDERATION COUNCIL APPROVES DEFENSE LAW. . . The parliament's upper
house on 15 May approved a revised version of the draft law on defense,
ITAR-TASS reported. The bill, the basic legislative foundation for
Russia's defense establishment, has had a rough ride: an earlier version
was vetoed by the Federation Council and then by the president after the
Duma overrode the upper house's veto. A commission representing Yeltsin
and both legislative chambers drew up a compromise bill that was
approved by the Duma on 24 April. Lt. Gen. Mikhail Surkov, deputy
chairman of the Duma Defense Committee, said the new law would spawn a
whole set of bills on issues such as military service and the status of
military personnel, which should be ready by the end of the year. He
added that a law on alternative civilian service is currently being
drafted. -- Doug Clarke

. . . BILLS ON BODYGUARDS AND PENSIONS, BUT REJECTS ONE ON HUMAN RIGHTS
COMMISSIONER. Also on 15 May, the Federation Council approved a bill on
the provision of bodyguards to senior state officials, ITAR-TASS
reported. The draft was passed by the Duma on 24 April (see OMRI Daily
Digest, 25 April 1996). Although the Federation Council adopted the
bill, the deputies noted that it was not clear under which conditions
state protection might be extended to officials and foreign
representatives not usually covered by the law. The Federation Council
also approved the Duma bill raising pensions by 10% as of 1 May (see
OMRI Daily Digest, 18 April). Compensation payments to pensioners have
also been increased. Finally, the deputies rejected the draft
legislation on Russia's human rights commissioner, objecting to the
process by which the commissioner is to be appointed (see OMRI Daily
Digest, 17 April) and to the bill's failure to provide for regional
human rights commissioners. -- Penny Morvant

TRIAL OF SOLDIER WHO KILLED JOURNALIST POSTPONED. The trial of the
soldier who killed journalist Natalya Alyakina in Budennovsk in June
1995 was postponed until next month due to the absence of several
eyewitnesses, NTV and ORT reported on 15 May. The soldier is charged
with carelessly handling a firearm (see OMRI Daily Digest, 15 May 1996).
Alyakina's widower, Gizbert Mrozek, complained that the investigation
into his wife's death was inadequate, as the possibility of premeditated
murder was never considered, according to NTV. -- Laura Belin

DISAGREEMENT OVER YELTSIN'S CHECHEN VISIT. Russian Interior Minister
Anatolii Kulikov on 15 May said there can be no question of negotiating
with the separatist Chechen leadership following Chechen field commander
Shamil Basaev's threats to give Russian President Boris Yeltsin a "warm
welcome" in Chechnya, Russian media reported. Kulikov also argued that
the visit should be postponed. However, Yeltsin's press secretary,
Sergei Medvedev, told RTR that Yeltsin rejects threats and considers it
"his duty" to visit Grozny in the interests of achieving peace. The
Swiss diplomat who heads the OSCE mission in Grozny, Tim Guldimann, held
what were termed "beneficial and productive" talks with Chechen
separatist leaders including acting President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev on 15
May, AFP reported, quoting Interfax. Meanwhile, three Russian soldiers
were shot dead in central Grozny and hostilities are continuing in Bamut
and Stary Achkhoi. -- Liz Fuller

CONCERN OVER PERSECUTION OF CHECHENS IN MOSCOW. The international human
rights organization Amnesty International sent a letter to the Russian
Procurator's Office, the Interior Ministry, and law-enforcement agencies
in Moscow expressing concern over the persecution of Chechens in Moscow
by police, Ekspress-khronikha reported on 16 May. Amnesty International
listed a series of cases in which Chechen refugees were threatened and
beaten by Moscow police officers and demanded that the incidents be
investigated. -- Penny Morvant

RUSSIA INSISTS ON FREE TRANSIT THROUGH TURKISH STRAITS. Responding to
Turkish threats to restrict tanker traffic, Fuel and Energy Minister
Yurii Shafranik told ITAR-TASS on 15 May that the Turkish straits must
remain open for maritime navigation without any new restrictions. (see
OMRI Daily Digest, 14 May 1996) Shafranik insisted that Turkey could not
unilaterally change the 1936 Montreux Convention, which governs the use
of the straits. Shafranik dismissed Turkish concerns about the safety
implications of increased tanker traffic through the straits, saying
they could best be addressed by forming an international commission to
study the issue. ITAR-TASS linked the Turkish threats with the 27 April
Russian-Kazakhstani agreement on the Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC),
which calls for Kazakhstani oil to be exported via the Russian Black Sea
port of Novorossiisk. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIAN-BELARUSIAN EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE MEETS. The executive committee of
the Russian-Belarusian community held its second session in Moscow on 15
May, Russian media reported. Under the chairmanship of Russian Prime
Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, the committee adopted decisions granting
the citizens of each member of the community equal rights to health
care, employment, and other social services in both countries. On the
same day, Russia and Belarus also signed a protocol outlining
cooperation in hard-currency and export control. Meanwhile, the Russian
Federation Council ratified the 2 April agreement forming the community,
as well as the 29 March quadripartite integration accord signed by
Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan. -- Scott Parrish

INTEGRATION COMMITTEE HOLDS FIRST SESSION. Under the chairmanship of
Kazakhstani First Deputy Prime Minister Nigmatzhan Isingarin, the
Integration Committee jointly created by Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan,
and Belarus met on 15 May, ITAR-TASS reported. The head of the Russian
delegation, Deputy Prime Minister Alexei Bolshakov, said the group
discussed logistical and organization questions related to the new
structure, including the establishment of a central office in Moscow
with a staff of 60 people. The presidents of the four states met on 16
May to prepare for the 12-nation CIS summit on 17 May, RFE/RL reported.
-- Roger Kangas

NEW AGRICULTURE MINISTER CALLS FOR STRONGER STATE SUPPORT. The
appointment of Viktor Khlystun as the new agriculture minister may
signal serious changes in governmental policy. The minister described
the existing system of federal financing in agriculture as insufficient
and called for larger budgetary outlays, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 May.
Khlystun argued that the state should resume the practice of giving low-
interest credits to agricultural enterprises and use customs duties and
import quotas to protect domestic producers. The minister maintains that
Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin shares his position. However, in a
commentary on 16 May, Izvestiya characterized Khlystun as a former
member of the "Gaidar team" and suggested he will pursue liberal
policies. -- Natalia Gurushina

NEW IMPORT TARIFFS. A new import tariff regime has been introduced with
effect from 15 May. Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Davydov told ITAR-TASS
that some duties will be raised while others will be lowered, leaving
the average tariff at 14-15%. Duties will go up on imports of textiles
and certain consumer goods. The duty on shoes is 20%, sugar 25%, meat
15%, furniture 20%, household appliances from 10 to 30%, and textiles
from 5 to 30%. -- Peter Rutland

BUDGET DEFICIT WIDENS. First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Kadannikov
told the Duma on 15 May that budget receipts in the first quarter are
running at only 69% of the planned level, ITAR-TASS reported. The Duma
passed a preliminary resolution declaring the government's budget
performance "unsatisfactory," and advised the government against going
ahead with the plan to cut import duties. Total revenue, including 4
trillion rubles in bank loans, was 49 trillion rubles ($9.8 billion),
while spending was 70 trillion rubles ($13.8 billion), 77% of the target
level. A total of 23 trillion rubles of federal spending went to pay
wage arrears, one of President Yeltsin's pre-election promises. However,
one good piece of news surfaced on 14 May. The State Statistics
Committee announced that GDP rose 2% in April, the first rise in five
years, ITAR-TASS reported. Exports surged by 24%, and imports by 6%. --
Peter Rutland

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

UZBEK-IRANIAN RIFT? Uzbek President Islam Karimov's criticism of Iran at
the recent Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) meeting in Ashgabat
has elicited a response from that country's conservative daily, the
Tehran Times, AFP reported on 15 May. At the meeting, Karimov had
threatened to withdraw Uzbekistan from the organization if member states
continued to "politicize" it, referring to Iranian President Akbar
Hashemi Rafsanjani's condemnation of the U.S. and Israel. The Tehran
paper reponded that "Uzbekistan should think twice before it acts or
speaks," and suggested that the country bring its policies into line
with those of other ECO states. Uzbekistan has been trying to improve
ties with the U.S. and has cordial relations with Israel. The presidents
of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan have expressed support for
Karimov's criticisms, calling the "politicization trend" in the ECO
unacceptable. -- Roger Kangas

SITUATION IN NORTH TAJIKISTAN STABILIZES. Government officials have made
several concessions to thousands of demonstrators in the northern Tajik
cities of Khojent and Ura-Tyube, Russian and Western sources report. In
Khojent, demonstrations continue, even though the head of the Leninabad
regional militia has been relieved of his post as a concession to the
protesters, and other officials are expected to lose their jobs in the
near future. In Ura-Tyube, order has been restored after a demonstration
there turned into a riot. The Tajik Interior Ministry now claims that
three people were killed--not five as earlier reported--when troops
opened fire on the rioters. Meanwhile, the newly appointed UN special
envoy to Tajikistan, Dietrich Merrem, met with Tajik President Imomali
Rakhmonov on 15 May in an attempt to restart the negotiation process
between the government and the United Tajik Opposition, ITAR-TASS
reported. -- 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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