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OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 107, Part I, 3 June 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

CFE DEAL ANNOUNCED IN VIENNA. Diplomats at the CFE treaty review
conference have agreed to give Russia three more years to meet the
"flank limits" on heavy military equipment specified in the 1990
agreement, Russian and Western agencies reported on 1 June. Under the
deal, Russia will have until 31 May 1999 to comply with the flank
limits, which it has been violating since last November. Until then,
Russia will freeze its deployments in the flank zone at their current
levels: 1,897 tanks, 4,397 armored personnel carriers, and 2,422 pieces
of artillery. According to Reuters, the deal also redefines the flank
zones by shrinking them. As a result, even after May 1999, Russia will
be permitted to deploy significantly more heavy weapons along its
northern and southern borders than would have been permitted under the
original terms. -- Scott Parrish

FIGHTING IN CHECHNYA CONTINUES. Despite the ceasefire which supposedly
took effect at midnight on 31 May, Chechen separatist forces attacked a
Russian roadblock in the village of Shuani on 1 June, taking 26 Russian
troops hostage, and ongoing hostilities in Shali claimed deaths on both
sides, Russian media reported. ORT quoted the commander of the Russian
federal forces in Chechnya, Lt. Gen. Vyacheslav Tikhomirov, as claiming
that the ongoing hostilities demonstrate that acting President Zelimkhan
Yandarbiev cannot control his field commanders. The Russian-Chechen
talks on disarmament, scheduled to take place on 1 June in Makhachkala,
were postponed and will now be held in the Ingush capital of Nazran on
4-5 June, according to Russian TV (RTR) and ITAR-TASS. Four Russian
troops died on 2 June when their armored vehicle was blown up in Grozny,
Reuters reported. Chechen warlord and convicted murderer Ruslan
Labazanov was killed in his home base of Tolstoi-Yurt during the night
of 31 May-1 June, NTV reported. Chechen sources reject ITAR-TASS's claim
that he was killed in a shoot-out with his own bodyguards. -- Liz Fuller

CHECHNYA TO DISCUSS POWER-SHARING WITH RUSSIA. President Yeltsin decreed
on 28 May that a public discussion will begin in Chechnya in June on a
power-sharing treaty with Russia, Rossiiskaya gazeta reported on 31 May.
The draft treaty admits Chechnya's right for self-determination and
guarantees it special status within the Russian Federation, although it
does not give the republic any special powers. The Chechen and the
federal governments would share responsibility for foreign relations,
the economy, and the demarcation of Chechen administrative borders,
according to the draft. By the end of the month, a new version of the
treaty will be submitted to President Yeltsin to consider based on the
Chechen responses. -- Anna Paretskaya

YELTSIN WAR CHEST NEARS LEGAL LIMIT. President Boris Yeltsin's campaign
had collected 14.365 billion rubles ($2.9 million) by 27 May, just short
of the 14.437 billion limit set by the electoral law, ITAR-TASS reported
on 31 May, citing the Central Electoral Commission. Communist candidate
Gennadii Zyuganov took in only 3.274 billion rubles, up only 250,000
rubles since 15 May. Aleksandr Lebed showed the greatest increase, going
from 155.5 million rubles on 15 May to more than 5.7 billion. Vladimir
Zhirinovsky collected 7.2 billion and Grigorii Yavlinskii raised 5.9
billion. Yeltsin also led in spending, with 6.78 billion rubles,
followed by Yavlinskii (5.42 billion), Zhirinovsky (3.36 billion), and
Zyuganov (3.25 billion). Going into the last two weeks of the campaign,
Yeltsin has a considerable amount of money at his disposal, while
Zyuganov only has 20 million rubles. Most observers believe that these
figures have little relationship to the candidates' actual spending. --
Robert Orttung

GAZPROM BACKS YELTSIN. The annual general meeting of shareholders in the
energy giant Gazprom took place on 31 May, and adopted a resolution
urging the re-election of Boris Yeltsin,Trud reported on 1 June. The
statement said that the other candidates were unacceptable because "none
of them have experience in government, their populist programs are
divorced from real life, and are aimed at another revolutionary
upheaval." Meanwhile. on 1 June the full text of Yeltsin's lengthy
electoral program was published in the official newspaper Rossiiskie
vesti.. -- Peter Rutland

COMMUNISTS REJECT SATAROV COMMENTS. Valentin Kuptsov, head of Gennadii
Zyuganov's campaign staff, denied presidential advisor Georgii Satarov's
statement that the Communists have a plan to seize power illegitimately,
Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 1 June (see OMRI Daily Digest, 31 May
1996). Kuptsov called Satarov's comment a "provocative lie aimed at
discrediting the Communist Party and its leader, Gennadii Zyuganov, on
the eve of the election." The Communists may file a libel suit against
Satarov, NTV reported on 31 May. Kuptsov argued that Zyuganov's
popularity was 10-12 points higher than President Yeltsin's and that it
would be impossible for the president to catch up, Russian Public TV
(ORT) reported. Most polls show the candidates even or Yeltsin pulling
into the lead. -- Robert Orttung

ANOTHER POWER-SHARING TREATY SIGNED. During a campaign swing through
Perm Oblast late last week, President Yeltsin signed a power-sharing
agreement with the oblast and Komi-Permyak Autonomous Okrug, which is
situated within the oblast, ITAR-TASS reported on 31 May. After the
ceremony, Yeltsin said that such agreements strengthen Russian
statehood, but many Russian politicians, including Federation Council
Speaker Yegor Stroev, have denounced power-sharing treaties for widening
inequality between regions. Perm is the 20th federation subject to sign
such a deal with the government and the eighth to sign during Yeltsin's
election campaign. -- Anna Paretskaya

ST. PETERSBURG MAYOR LOSES ELECTION. St. Petersburg Mayor Anatolii
Sobchak narrowly lost the second round of the city's gubernatorial
election on 2 June, ITAR-TASS and Reuters reported on 3 June. According
to the preliminary results, former First Deputy Mayor Vladimir Yakovlev
received 47.5% of the vote, while Sobchak won 45.8%; turnout was about
43% of eligible voters. The last week of the campaign was marked by a
series of scandals. For instance, nationalist Duma deputy and television
journalist Aleksandr Nevzorov, campaigning on TV for Yakovlev, said he
had evidence that appeared to suggest that a criminal case had been
launched against Sobchak; this was later denied by Procurator General's
Office. Meanwhile, one of Sobchak's campaign advertisements implicitly
accused Yakovlev of corruption, showing his huge, luxurious home, NTV
reported on 2 June. In 1991, Sobchak was elected mayor in the first
round with 66% of the vote. -- Anna Paretskaya

STRIKING WORKERS RALLY IN NORILSK. At a rally on 2 June, about 3,000
people in the Arctic city of Norilsk called on the president and
government to resolve the problems facing the Norilsk industrial region,
ITAR-TASS reported. The previous day, more than 10,000 workers at the
Norilsk Nickel copper and nickel combine went on strike to demand the
delivery of winter supplies to the city and the payment of overdue
wages, estimated by a union official at 1.3 trillion rubles ($260
million). Mining has stopped at one pit, and smelting is at a
standstill. The strike is scheduled to continue until 4 June, when the
company's president and representatives of ONEKSIMbank, the main
shareholder, arrive for talks. Wage arrears were an issue in the
struggle earlier this year for control over the combine (see OMRI Daily
Digest, 7 February and 15 April 1996). -- Penny Morvant

CHERNOMYRDIN ON ARREARS . . . During a visit to Mordoviya, Prime
Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin promised decisive action to deal with the
continuing problem of non-payments, ITAR-TASS reported on 31 May. He
said special teams of accountants will be sent to some of the 70 firms
that top the list of debtors, accounting for around two thirds of all
arrears. Chernomyrdin also said that a special non-budget fund will be
created to assist defense conversion, on top of the 2 trillion rubles
($400 million) allotted in the 1996 budget. The same day, First Deputy
Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets reported that defense plants will be
granted a tax waiver of 1.2 trillion rubles to help them pay electricity
bills. -- Peter Rutland

. . . AND ON HELP FOR MORDOVIYA. Chernomyrdin also told local leaders in
the Mordovan capital of Saransk that the federal government will
contribute 5 trillion rubles ($1 billion) over the next five years to a
special program to revive the republic's economy. The conversion help
that Chernomyrdin announced will be particularly welcome in Mordoviya,
which has a heavy concentration of defense plants. Our Home Is Russia
finished second to the communists in Mordoviya in the December
elections. President Yeltsin will have to win in places like Mordoviya
if he is to gain re-election. -- Peter Rutland

WORLD BANK GIVES RUSSIA $80 MILLION ENVIRONMENTAL GRANT. The World Bank
will give Russia an $80 million grant to finance two environmental
projects, ITAR-TASS reported on 31 May. The first project is to
subsidize cuts in the production of chemicals that damage the ozone
layer; the second aims at protecting rare animals and plants in the
interest of biodiversity. -- Natalia Gurushina

AEROFLOT AND TRANSAERO ANNOUNCE PLANS TO COOPERATE. Russia's two rival
aviation companies, Aeroflot and Transaero, have announced that they
will consolidate their efforts in order to cut costs and to push foreign
competitors from the Russian market, Kommersant-Daily reported on 1
June. The companies plan to carry out joint operations at Sheremetevo,
Russia's main international airport. Aeroflot, which accounts for 90% of
the country's international flights, will transport passengers from
abroad, while Transaero will carry them across Russia and to other CIS
states. Aeroflot is a descendant of the Soviet company with the same
name. Transaero was created in September 1991 by a group of avionics
enterprises, and was the first private Russian airline to lease foreign-
built aircraft. -- Natalia Gurushina

RUSSIA FORMALLY ADOPTS RUBLE CONVERTIBILITY ON CURRENT ACCOUNT. Russia
formally adopted the IMF's Article 8 provisions on current account
convertibility on 1 June, ITAR-TASS reported. This means that the
government will no longer require Russian exporters to immediately
exchange 50% of their foreign currency earnings. However, restrictions
on capital account operations will remain in place. The move will
further ease foreign trade and foreign investment in Russia. It is also
possible that the ruble will soon be traded on foreign exchanges. --
Natalia Gurushina

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

MORE ARRESTS IN AZERBAIJAN. Five men said to be members of the
opposition Azerbaijani Popular Front have been arrested in Nakhichevan
in connection with an alleged attempt to assassinate President Heidar
Aliev in 1993, Reuters reported on 1 June, quoting a source in the
Azerbaijani Interior Ministry. A spokesman for the Azerbaijan Popular
Front has denied that the men are members of the organization. -- Liz
Fuller

OSCE PRAISES UZBEK PARLIAMENTARIANS. OSCE Parliamentary Assembly
Chairman Frank Swaelen praised Uzbekistan's parliament as a "factor of
stability" in the entire region, and said he hoped it would provide an
example to Uzbekistan's neighbors, ITAR-TASS reported on 31 May.
Uzbekistan had just received similar praise from the German Foreign
Minister Klaus Kinkel (see OMRI Daily Digest, 31 May 1996). -- Bruce
Pannier

KAZAKHSTANI MAJILIS REJECTS PENSIONS BILL. The lower house of the
Kazakhstani parliament, the Majilis, rejected a bill on pensions,
claiming that it is too harsh on the elderly, according to a 24 May
Express report monitored by the BBC. The bill's proposals to raise the
retirement age and abolish special benefits for various social groups
such as teachers, miners, and the victims of the nuclear tests at
Semipalatinsk are aimed at saving about $8 billion. -- Bhavna Dave

KAZAKHSTAN LAUNCHES NEW PROGRAM TO CURB NARCOTICS FLOW. Kazakhstani
legal authorities have launched a new anti-drug operation called "Mak
(poppy) 96" to halt the production and sale of narcotics and to prevent
them from being transported through the republic, ITAR-TASS reported on
1 June. Special police brigades, provided with helicopters, have blocked
access to areas where hemp is grown; about 140,000 hectares of land in
the Chu valley alone are thought to be used for this purpose. About two
metric tons of narcotics have already been seized this year. -- Bhavna
Dave

KAZAKHSTAN'S UIGHURS CONCERNED OVER CHINESE CRACKDOWN IN XINJIANG.
Muhidin Mukhlissi, spokesman for the Uighur opposition United National
Revolutionary Front (UNRF) of Western Turkestan, told AFP on 31 May by
telephone from Kazakhstan that 20 people had died in clashes between
Uighur separatists and Chinese officials in the Uighur Autonomous
province of Xinjiang in China. Chinese officials have denied these
reports as "pure lies," AFP reported on 1 June. Leaders of the UNRF and
two other Uighur separatist movements based in Kazakhstan allege that a
major Chinese crackdown on Uighur separatists in Xinjiang began just
after the 26 April summit in Shanghai between China, Russia, Kazakhstan,
Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. Kazakhstan's government has pledged support
to China in combatting separatist activities on the border. -- Bhavna
Dave

TAJIK-RUSSIAN INTEGRATED ENERGY PLAN. Russia and Tajikistan signed a
protocol establishing an integrated energy plan on 1 June, ITAR-TASS
reported the same day. Tajikistan has enormous hydroelectric energy
potential, but the reports did not mention how the energy would be
transported through the countries that separate Russia and Tajikistan.
The visiting Russian delegation, led by Deputy Prime Minister Aleksei
Bolshakov, also held meetings with Tajik officials on repayment plans
for Tajikistan's debt to Russia, and Tajikistan's possible membership in
the customs union with Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan,
RFE/RL reported. -- Bruce Pannier

[As of 12:00 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez

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