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

No. 98, Part I, 21 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

DISUNITY WITHIN ZYUGANOV'S COALITION . . . Representatives of Gennadii 
Zyuganov's coalition met on 20 May to discuss campaign strategy and sign a 
document backing Zyuganov for president, Russian and Western media 
reported. Viktor Tyulkin's extreme Russian Communist Workers' Party, which 
had refused to endorse Zyuganov, joined the coalition, according to NTV; 
meanwhile, Russian Public Union leader Sergei Baburin, who pledged to back 
Zyuganov in April, refused to sign the document. Workers' Russia leader 
Viktor Anpilov, who like Tyulkin advocates more traditional communist 
policies, asked Zyuganov to be "more bold" and call for nationalizing all 
banks. Komsomolskaya pravda alleged on 21 May that a split within the KPRF 
ranks is widening, with Zyuganov among those supporting more compromises 
with the current authorities, while others favor a more radical stance. -- 
Laura Belin 

. . . AS SELEZNEV SWITCHES JOBS. At a closed meeting of the KPRF Central 
Committee on 18 May, Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev was removed from the 
post of Central Committee secretary at his own request, ITAR-TASS reported 
on 20 May. He also quit as editor of the KPRF weekly paper Pravda Rossii. 
Seleznev denied rumors that colleagues were dissatisfied with his work, 
explaining that as speaker of the Duma he did not have the time to perform 
the full-time job of party secretary. Party spokesmen described the move 
as a promotion, since Seleznev was elected to the KPRF presidium. -- Laura 
Belin

FEDOROV'S EYE CLINIC FORCED TO SHUT DOWN. The main branch of the famous 
eye surgery clinic operated by presidential candidate Svyatoslav Fedorov 
was forced to close on 20 May due to financial problems, NTV and Russian 
TV (RTR) reported. Since 15 February, the clinic has received no money 
from the Moscow City Mandatory Insurance Fund, which used to finance many 
of the hundreds of surgical operations performed there each day at no cost 
to the patients. According to Komsomolskaya pravda on 18 May, the clinic's 
11 affiliates throughout Russia are not affected and continue to be partly 
financed by local authorities. Fedorov has complained that the money was 
shut off because he is running against President Yeltsin. In his campaign 
speeches, Fedorov frequently describes his clinic as a model of how the 
Russian economy can be rebuilt on the model of "private workers' 
collectives." -- Laura Belin 

LEBED ISSUES ELECTION PLATFORM. Campaigning in the Urals industrial city 
of Chelyabinsk, Aleksandr Lebed issued his election platform, containing 
eight "strategic tasks" for Russia, Russian TV (RTR) and ITAR-TASS 
reported on 20 May. Among Lebed's stated priorities are: preserving the 
country's unity, filling the treasury, ending the war in Chechnya, taking 
steps to prevent environmental disasters, reorganizing and cutting the 
state bureaucracy, and preparing a referendum on private land ownership. 
He expressed optimism about his prospects, saying he hopes to win the 
support of the 60% of Russians who are against both "reds" and "whites." 
Also on 20 May, Svyatoslav Fedorov blamed Lebed's ambition for the fact 
that the "third force" alliance never took hold, ORT reported. -- Laura 
Belin

TIKHOMIROV CONFIDENT OF WIPING OUT CHECHEN RESISTANCE. The commander of 
the Russian federal forces in Chechnya, Lt. Gen. Vyacheslav Tikhomirov, 
told journalists on 20 May that Chechen resistance would be eliminated by 
early to mid-June, i.e. prior to the Russian presidential election, 
ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile, diversions against both military and 
civilian targets continue in Grozny and elsewhere. A power line in Grozny 
was blown up on 20 May, Russian media reported. More evidence is emerging 
of the scale of embezzlement of federal funds intended for reconstruction 
in Chechnya. AFP, quoting Itogi, reported on 20 May that more than $2 
billion is unaccounted for, and that food and humanitarian aid for 
Chechnya is still stockpiled in Moscow and other Russian cities. -- Liz 
Fuller

LUZHKOV DECLARED MAYOR OF THE YEAR. On 20 May, Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov 
was announced as the winner in the national competition "Russian mayors 
1995," ITAR TASS reported the next day. Of the 50 mayors competing for the 
honor, there was only one woman--Elenora Sheremeteva of Uglich. Luzhkov 
described the mayors as "the pivotal mechanism upon which the whole 
structure of our state rests." On 20 May, Luzhkov flew to Tajikistan, 
where he visited the troops of the 12th Moscow Border Guards detachment 
and gave them food and medicine worth 1.5 billion rubles ($500,000). -- 
Peter Rutland

SELEZNEV SLAMS CIS LEADERS. Addressing a 20 May meeting of CIS 
journalists, Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev (KPRF) accused the leaders of 
the other CIS states of meddling in Russia's internal affairs by openly 
supporting President Yeltsin's re-election campaign, ITAR-TASS reported. 
Seleznev cited the public declarations of several CIS leaders following 
their 17 May summit (see OMRI Daily Digest, 20 May 1996). He also hinted 
at future retaliation, reminding his audience that all agreements with CIS 
states must be ratified by the Duma. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIA SNUBS NORDIC DEFENSE MEETING. Russia will snub a meeting of Nordic 
defense ministers, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 May, suggesting the decision 
reflected Russian uneasiness about international concern over the safety 
of Russian nuclear submarines. Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev had 
originally agreed to attend the 20-21 May meeting in Norway and to jointly 
inspect decommissioned Russian nuclear submarines stored on the Kola 
Peninsula with his Norwegian counterpart, Jorgen Kosmo. Last week, the 
Russian Defense Ministry said that Grachev would not attend the meeting, 
although Norway announced that one of his deputies would come instead. But 
ITAR-TASS reported that the Defense Ministry has now decided against any 
participation in the meeting, meaning that Kosmo's visit has also been 
canceled. -- Scott Parrish 

CONSTITUTIONAL COURT REAFFIRMS LAW ON RUSSIAN CITIZENSHIP. The Russian 
Constitutional Court issued a decision on 16 May that confirms a broadly 
inclusive citizenship policy, ITAR-TASS reported. The court ruled that all 
persons who were born in the Russian Federation; all former Soviet 
citizens who did not acquire citizenship in a CIS or other country; anyone 
deprived of Russian citizenship against their will; and all persons who 
once left Russia for other Soviet republics and then returned to Russia 
for permanent residence can claim Russian citizenship by birth. The ruling 
came about in the case of Aleksei Smirnov, who was born in Russia, moved 
to Lithuania, but did not acquire Lithuanian citizenship after the 
break-up of the USSR. When he returned to Russia, local courts denied him 
Russian citizenship. The court ordered that Smirnov be granted 
citizenship. -- Constantine Dmitriev 

SAKHAROV MUSEUM OPENS. The Museum of Peace, Progress, and Human Rights, 
dedicated to the memory of dissident nuclear physicist Andrei Sakharov, 
opened in Moscow on 20 May, Reuters reported. The museum, housed in a 
former police station, includes relics of the totalitarian past, but also 
video footage of the Chechen war. The papers of Sakharov, who died in 
1989, are housed in an archive at Brandeis University near Boston, 
Massachusetts. The only leading politician to attend the museum opening 
was Grigorii Yavlinskii. On 21 May, which would have been Sakharov's 75th 
birthday, President Yeltsin laid flowers at his grave. On 19 May, Yeltsin 
issued a decree listing the new members of his presidential commission on 
human rights. A number of liberal members of the commission, including its 
chairman Sergei Kovalev, stepped down in the wake of Yeltsin's use of 
force to crush the Pervomaiskoe hostage-taking (see OMRI Daily Digest, 25 
January 1996). -- Peter Rutland 

AIDS REMEMBRANCE. International AIDS Day was marked in Moscow on 17 May 
with a memorial exhibition of quilts in front of the Central Artists' Hall 
prepared by the friends and families of the deceased and organized by the 
group "Names" (Imena), ITAR-TASS reported. Russia currently reports 1,157 
persons infected with HIV and 205 suffering from AIDS, with 177 deaths, 
Izvestiya noted on 18 May. These low official figures undoubtedly 
understate the real extent of the disease; there is concern that it may be 
spreading among drug addicts. -- Peter Rutland 

BUDGET PLANS. . . First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Kadannikov told the 
government's operational commission for improving payments that the tax 
burden on the energy sector is "exceptionally heavy," ITAR-TASS reported 
on 20 May. Firms in the sector are expected to pay 74 trillion rubles ($15 
billion) in taxes in 1996, amounting to 27% of total federal budget 
revenue. However, fuel and energy enterprises are already 19 trillion in 
arrears on their tax payments. Aleksandr Kazakov, head of the State 
Privatization Committee, told ITAR TASS on 20 May that revenue from the 
privatization of 703 firms in the first quarter of 1996 amounted to a mere 
500 billion rubles. The same day, Finance Minister Vladimir Panskov denied 
earlier reports that the government will be taking loans from commercial 
banks to finance the Defense Ministry. -- Peter Rutland

. . .AMID ONGOING BATTLE TO PAY WAGE ARREARS. Deputy Finance Minister 
Andrei Petrov told the government's operational commission for improving 
payments that 30.7 trillion rubles ($6.1 billion) has been dispensed since 
the beginning of the year to eradicate wage arrears in budget 
organizations, ITAR TASS reported on 20 May. However, the commission 
deemed the implementation of the program unsatisfactory because of 
widespread misuse of the funds by managers and local government officials. 
The head of the Federal Labor Inspectorate, Vladimir Varov, said that 
23,000 cases of the misallocation of funds, involving 2 trillion rubles, 
has been discovered, ORT reported. A total of 400 cases have been 
forwarded to the procuracy for criminal prosecution. -- Peter Rutland

NEW WORLD BANK LOANS IN THE PIPELINE. Russia and the World Bank are 
preparing to negotiate a $500 million loan to restructure the coal 
industry, AFP reported on 17 May. The loan will be used to finance the 
closure of loss-making pits and provide new investment for viable mine 
operations. Russia is also seeking a $25 million credit for the 
reconstruction of the historical part of St. Petersburg, ITAR-TASS 
reported on 20 May. -- Natalia Gurushina 

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

ARMENIA ACCUSES AZERBAIJAN OVER PRISONER RELEASE. Many of the 34 supposed 
Armenian prisoners of war released by Azerbaijan and brought to Armenia on 
9 May by Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov were in fact 
Azerbaijanis who had been convicted of criminal offenses in their home 
country, according to ITAR-TASS and Noyan Tapan. Noyan Tapan also reported 
on 20 May that three of the Azerbaijani prisoners of war released by the 
Karabakh Armenian leadership (one Afghan and two Russian mercenaries) 
declined to be repatriated to Azerbaijan for fear of reprisals from the 
authorities. -- Liz Fuller 

TURKISH DIPLOMAT WARNS GEORGIA ON RUSSIAN BASE. The Turkish Ambassador to 
Georgia Tofik Okiauz told the Georgian newspaper Rezonansi that Turkey 
would respond in kind if Tbilisi allows Russia to establish a military 
base near the Turkish border, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 May. A 1994 basing 
agreement gave Russia the right to base troops at Akhalkalaki, some 20 km 
from the Turkish border, where a Soviet motorized-rifle division was once 
based. Okiauz said that in such an event "Turkey will build a military 
base on its territory, in direct proximity to the Georgian border." 
Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagarishvili said that countries in the 
region should "strive to switch over from confrontation...to international 
cooperation." He noted that the Russian-Georgian basing agreement would 
not come into force until Georgia's territorial integrity is restored." -- 
Doug Clarke 

MARKET COMPETITION DECREED IN UZBEKISTAN. Uzbek President Islam Karimov on 
15 May established a Demonopolization and Competition Committee in the 
Finance Ministry, which will have the authority to penalize companies that 
break Uzbekistan's antimonopoly legislation, the BBC reported on 21 May. 
The committee will also take on the role of "consumer advocate" for both 
citizens and foreign companies. This development is part of a recent 
effort by the Uzbek government to encourage foreign investment. -- Roger 
Kangas 

VIOLENCE IN TAJIKISTAN. Violence continued in northeastern Tajikistan 
despite the recent signing of another three-month extension to the 
ceasefire agreement. Reuters reported that battles raged around the city 
of Tajikabad on 17-18 May and ITAR-TASS reported that two Tajik police 
officers were killed and four captured in a raid on an Interior Ministry 
department on 19 May in Jirgatal. Both cities lie on the road leading 
eastward from Dushanbe toward Kyrgyzstan. One police officer was killed 
and another wounded in an 18 May attack on a police check point in the 
Dushanbe suburbs. On 19 May, police opened fire on a vehicle containing an 
Iranian embassy employee in Dushanbe, injuring him and his five-year- old 
son. The Iranian embassy is demanding the arrest of the officers. -- 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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