The only certainty is that nothing is certain. - Pliny the Elder
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 102, Part I, 27 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 CAMPAIGNS IN THE NORTH . . . President Boris Yeltsin took
advantage of a campaign trip to Arkhangelsk Oblast and Vorkuta (Komi
Republic) to hand out favors to northern regions. Yeltsin addressed 500
administrative heads of small towns in Arkhangelsk on 24 May and a
congress of far northern cities in Vorkuta the next day, ITAR-TASS and
Radio Rossii reported. Over the weekend, he signed decrees promising
more state support for the social and economic development of
Arkhangelsk Oblast and instructing the government to approve a
development program for small and medium-size towns within the next two
weeks. In a 24 May interview on Arkhangelsk regional television, Yeltsin
also promised to enact a presidential or governmental program to help
regional television and radio companies. -- Laura Belin

. . . AND CONTINUES TO DOLE OUT BENEFITS. On his campaign trip to
Russia's far north, Yeltsin said in Arkhangelsk on 24 May, "I've come
with full pockets...Today a little money will be coming into Arkhangelsk
Oblast," Russian and Western agencies reported. On his next stop, in
Vorkuta, Yeltsin announced a 133 billion ruble ($26.6 million) package
of support for the Pechora coal basin. According to the head of the
Independent Miners' Union, 78 billion rubles in back wages arrived on
the eve of Yeltsin's visit. In an attempt to win back the allegiance of
miners, Yeltsin, whose itinerary included a trip down a mine, promised a
variety of benefits including subsidized summer holidays for thousands
of children, grants for the construction of retirement homes in warmer
regions, and a 40-60% reduction in railroad tariffs on coal from
Vorkuta. -- Penny Morvant

COMMUNIST ECONOMIC PROGRAM PUBLISHED. Nezavisimaya gazeta published a
leaked draft of the economic program of presidential candidate Gennadii
Zyuganov on 25 May. The document, entitled "From Destruction to the
Creation of a Road to the 21st Century for Russia," was submitted to the
State Duma on 27 May. The document eschews Marxian rhetoric in favor of
a Keynesian tone, stressing the importance of reviving demand. It says
the country is facing "national catastrophe" due to the "neutron bomb of
monetarism," and calls for import controls and an end to international
borrowing which "surrenders our independence." It does not threaten the
imposition of large-scale price controls or a wave of renationalization,
although it says some privatization projects should be reversed in the
courts. -- Peter Rutland

NO YELTSIN, YAVLINSKII COALITION BEFORE SECOND ROUND. Yabloko leader
Grigorii Yavlinskii says he will not resume negotiations with President
Yeltsin until after the results of the first round of the election are
known, NTV reported 24 May. Yeltsin campaign organizer Sergei Filatov
also said on 25 May that there would be no further negotiations with the
other candidates since they were merely using their talks with the
president to increase their own stature. Filatov also expressed grave
concerns over Yeltsin's ability to win in the second round, since the
voting is likely to take place on 7 July when many people will be at
their summer homes and may not return to the city to vote. -- Robert
Orttung in Moscow

MOST FORWARD, RUSSIA! VOTERS WILL SUPPORT YELTSIN. Forward, Russia!
leader Boris Fedorov on 26 May urged his party's activists to support
President Yeltsin in the June election, NTV reported. Fedorov predicted
on 24 May that about 90% of the 1.3 million voters who supported his
party in the December Duma election will support Yeltsin on 16 June. He
criticized Yeltsin for making numerous mistakes but said that he is the
only guarantee of reform. Fedorov praised Yeltsin's recent decree to
create a professional army and called on him to replace Defense Minister
Pavel Grachev with Col. Gen. Boris Gromov, adding that a civilian
defense minister would be even better. Fedorov, who led a boisterous
campaign in December, told OMRI that if he were in charge of Yeltsin's
television campaign--which mostly consists of testimonials by ordinary
people and does not show Yeltsin at all-- he would make it more
energetic. -- Robert Orttung in Moscow

CONGRESS OF RUSSIAN COMMUNITIES DROPS SKOKOV. The Congress of Russian
Communities (KRO) voted at an extraordinary congress--held at the
request of more than 30 of its regional branches--to remove the
movement's leader, Yurii Skokov, and named Dmitrii Rogozin in his place.
Rogozin holds more radical nationalist views than Skokov. Skokov was
blamed for the congress' failure to overcome the 5% barrier in the
December Duma election, particularly since Skokov led the ticket and put
Aleksandr Lebed in the number two position. The congress is backing
Lebed in the first round of the presidential election. Yeltsin sent a
telegram to the congress supporting the idea of helping Russians who are
currently living abroad and asking for cooperation with the movement.
Lebed also sent a telegram thanking the KRO for its support and backing
steps to strengthen the Russian state, unify the Russian people, and
reduce the threat of civil war. -- Robert Orttung in Moscow

DUMA PROMISES SUPPORT FOR NORTH. As President Yeltsin campaigned in
Arkhangelsk, the State Duma passed a law on the social and economic
development of the north, which would compensate those living and
working in northern regions and provide more funding for the development
of the economy and culture of indigenous peoples of the north, ITAR-TASS
reported on 24 May. A similar law passed by the Duma in June 1994 was
vetoed by Yeltsin. Vladimir Goman, chairman of the Duma Committee on
Northern Affairs, said the president's suggestions were incorporated
into the new law. -- Laura Belin

DUMA PASSES REVISED CRIMINAL CODE. The Duma on 24 May passed a revised
version of the Russian Criminal Code that includes amendments suggested
by President Yeltsin, ITAR-TASS reported. The code has been under
discussion in the parliament for three years. Yeltsin vetoed the
previous version on 6 December 1995 on the recommendation of law
enforcement agencies. If passed by the Federal Assembly, the code will
go into effect on 1 January 1997. The new Criminal Code retains capital
punishment (albeit for five rather than 18 crimes), although Russia's
membership in the Council of Europe obligates it to abolish the death
sentence by early 1999. -- Penny Morvant

U.S. EMBASSY REFUTES REPORT OF EVACUATION PLAN. The U.S. Embassy in
Moscow has denied that it warned U.S. citizens in Russia to prepare for
evacuation in the event of civil unrest following the upcoming
presidential election, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 May. Nezavisimaya gazeta
on 24 May cited a U.S. citizen named Efroim Sevel who said he witnessed
evacuation preparations at the embassy. Embassy First Secretary Thomas
Graham, however, said the report was "forged." He said the embassy had
no record of any visit by a person named Efroim Sevel. The story is the
latest sensationalist canard by anti-communist newspapers that are
openly attempting to scare voters into supporting President Yeltsin. --
Scott Parrish

PROSPECTS FOR CHECHEN PEACE TALKS. Pro-Moscow Chechen head of state Doku
Zavgaev and First Deputy Prime Minister Abdulla Bugaev on 24 May
expressed skepticism that the peace talks between President Yeltsin,
Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, and acting Chechen President
Zelimkhan Yandarbiev in Moscow on 27 May would yield positive results,
NTV reported. Zavgaev is scheduled to participate in the talks, as are
several Chechen field commanders with the exception of Chechen Chief of
Staff Aslan Maskhadov, who told Western agencies that Yeltsin and
Yandarbiev will sign an agreement on an immediate ceasefire. Maskhadov
warned, however, that the Chechen side is not prepared to compromise
over its insistence on Chechnya's independence. -- Liz Fuller

CHECHYNA CASUALTIES DETAILED. Russian federal forces have lost 2,483 men
killed in Chechnya since the hostilities began in December 1994, Reuters
reported on 24 May, citing Interfax. Lt. Gen. Andrei Ivanov was quoted
as saying 16,843 Chechen separatists had been killed during the same
period. Federal forces also lost four aircraft, 18 helicopters, and 80
tanks; the Chechens lost 119 tanks. -- Doug Clarke

NEW RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE. President Yeltsin has dismissed
Ambassador to Ukraine Leonid Smolyakov from his post and replaced him
with one of Moscow's most experienced diplomats, Yurii Dubinin, Russian
media reported on 24 May. Dubinin, 65, who will retain his current post
of deputy foreign minister, has been special ambassador for negotiations
with Ukraine since 1992. In the diplomatic service since 1955, Dubinin
previously held ambassadorial posts in Spain (1978-86), the U.S. (1986-
1990), and France (1990-91). The appointment of a deputy foreign
minister as ambassador in Kyiv may signal that Moscow wants to work even
harder to resolve continuing difficulties with Ukraine over the Black
Sea Fleet and other issues. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIA, VENEZUELA SIGN AGREEMENTS. Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii
Primakov and his Venezuelan counterpart, Miguel Burelli, have signed a
friendship and cooperation treaty and a cultural and scientific
cooperation agreement in Caracas, Russian and Western agencies reported
on 24 May. Primakov and Burelli both expressed interest in reviving a
trilateral arrangement with Cuba under which Caracas would supply Havana
with oil in exchange for Russia supplying oil to Venezuelan clients in
Europe. A similar agreement was in effect from 1978-1990 and all three
sides benefited from reduced transportation costs. Primakov, on the
final stop of a week-long Latin American visit which also included
Mexico and Cuba, said Russia continues to have "long-term strategic
interests" in Latin America. -- Scott Parrish

NIKITIN'S KIN FLEES TO FRANCE. The daughter and son-in-law of former
Russian naval officer Alexander Nikitin--jailed for espionage in
connection with his work for the Norwegian environmental group Bellona--
have fled to France due to secret police pressure, The Sunday Times
reported on 26 May. Igor Kudrick, Nikitin's son-in-law, had continued
Nikitin's work with Belonna after his father-in-law was arrested; he
decided to flee to the West after being interrogated several times by
the Federal Security Service. "The methods they used against us," he
said, "were a typical KGB operation where you don't just intimidate the
accused but also his family." -- Doug Clarke

UN, RUSSIA ON CIS MIGRATION. The UNHCR has described migration trends
within the CIS states as a potential threat to regional stability, ITAR-
TASS and Reuters reported on 23 May. There are some 9 million forced
migrants on the territory of the former Soviet Union, according to the
report. Russian Federal Migration Service (FMS) Director Tatyana Regent
announced on 23 May that forced migration into Russia has increased
dramatically, totaling 1,062,997 people out of the 3 million who have
moved to Russia since 1993, ITAR-TASS reported. More than 70% of the
migrants come from Central Asia, especially Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan,
she added. The UNHCR report noted that there are an estimated 164
territorial disputes "based on ethnic issues" in the former Soviet
Union. Another concern is that about 2 million of the migrants are
ethnic Russians who may provide a base of support for "resurgent
communist-nationalist" feelings in Russia. -- Roger Kangas and
Constantine Dmitriev

ECONOMY MINISTER WARNS OF FINANCIAL COLLAPSE. Economy Minister Yevgenii
Yasin has written a letter to Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin warning
him that Russia is on the brink of a financial crisis, Kommersant-Daily
reported on 25 May. Yasin reportedly wrote that trying to pay all the
wage arrears before the election is "absolutely unrealistic," and the
effort could cause currency reserves to slump to $3-4 billion. The paper
noted that only last week the IMF released the latest tranche of its
$10.1 billion loan, while World Bank President James Wolfensohn was in
Moscow negotiating loans worth $1.4 billion, showing their confidence in
Moscow's economic course. The paper speculated that Yasin's skepticism
may reflect the fact that key decisions are being taken not by his
ministry but by the Central Bank and the Finance Ministry. Deputy
Finance Minister Oleg Vyugin assured Kommersant-Daily that gold and
currency reserves have now reached $16 billion, which is even enough to
cover 70% of the rubles in circulation. -- Peter Rutland

NEW $650 MILLION LOAN FROM GERMANY. A Russian delegation headed by
Foreign Economic Relations Minister Oleg Davydov has signed a memorandum
on a DM 1 billion ($650 million) loan from Germany, ITAR-TASS and
Segodnya reported on 24-25 May. Among the projects financed by the
seven-year, 4% loan will be the modernization of the Magnitogorsk
Metallurgical Plant. The agreement specifies that 80% of the sum must be
spent on buying equipment in Germany. -- Natalia Gurushina

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

GEORGIA CELEBRATES INDEPENDENCE DAY. Georgia celebrated its independence
on 26 May, Russian media reported same day. Although the Georgian
parliament declared independence on 9 April 1991, the country celebrates
its independence on the date of the previous declaration in 1918. In the
capital, Tbilisi, the celebrations opened with a military parade
followed by a concert. Supporters of former President Zviad Gamsakhurdia
also held a meeting to mark the anniversary of his election; they later
marched through downtown Tbilisi with the flags of Georgia and the
Republic of Ichkeria (Chechnya). Police intervened in the march and
detained a handful of the demonstrators. -- Irakli Tsereteli

TYPHOID OUTBREAK IN TAJIKISTAN. A typhoid epidemic appears to have
broken out in southern Tajikistan, ITAR-TASS and RFE/RL reported on 25
May. Tajik Health Minister Alamkhan Akhmedov said 600 cases had been
registered in the Kulyab region; ITAR-TASS put the figure at 800 in
Kulyab and Gissar (west of Dushanbe) since 24 May. The epidemic seems to
have been caused by mud slides that contaminated the water supply. Acute
shortages of medical supplies are compounding the problem. -- 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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