The greatest of faults, I should say, is to be conscious of none. - Thomas Carlyle 1975-1881
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 112, Part I, 10 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

CHECHEN TALKS RESUME. Meeting on 9 June in Nazran after a three-day
break, Russian and Chechen representatives reached agreement in
principle on a timetable for the withdrawal of Russian troops and the
demilitarization of Chechnya by 30 August, but they failed to sign a
protocol to this effect, Russian and Western agencies reported. No
agreement was reached on the Chechen demands for a postponement of the
election to a new People's Assembly until after the Russian troop
withdrawal. On 9 June, the pro-Moscow Chechen government criticized the
head of the OSCE mission in Grozny, Tim Guldimann, for allegedly
exceeding his authority by holding direct talks with acting Chechen
President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev's group, according to Reuters. The pro-
Moscow parliament and government also addressed a statement to President
Boris Yeltsin and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin protesting their
exclusion from the Nazran talks and questioning Yandarbiev's commitment
to the 27 May peace agreement signed in Moscow, ITAR-TASS reported. On 8
June, Yusup Elmurzaev, the administration head of Urus-Martan, was shot
dead by masked gunmen. -- Liz Fuller

TROOP PULLOUT FROM CHECHNYA DELAYED. A spokesman for the General Staff
on 7 June said that the withdrawal of federal troops from Chechnya is
"impossible" at this time, ITAR-TASS reported. Lt. Gen. Andrei Ivanov
said that the continued shelling of federal troops despite the recent
ceasefire agreement require them to remain in place for the time being.
Defense Minister Pavel Grachev had said earlier that forces not
permanently assigned to the North Caucasus military district would begin
withdrawing from Chechnya on 1 June. -- Doug Clarke

YELTSIN CONFIDENT OF VICTORY IN FIRST ROUND. President Boris Yeltsin
said his "intuition" tells him that he will not only be re-elected but
may win the election outright in the first round, NTV reported on 9
June. He also said that he has instructed his staff not to prepare for a
second round election. The latest opinion polls by VTsIOM and ROMIR,
broadcast on the same program, indicate that Yeltsin leads Communist
leader Gennadii Zyuganov among likely voters. However, he would need to
win more than 50% of the vote to avoid a runoff, and his support is
currently measured in the mid-30s. Before leaving for Tatarstan on 9
June, Yeltsin met with rival presidential candidate Aleksandr Lebed, but
no details were released about their discussion. -- Laura Belin in
Moscow

YELTSIN SEEKS MUSLIM VOTE IN KAZAN. During his 9 June trip to Tatarstan,
President Yeltsin sought to attract Muslim voters. While in Kazan,
Yeltsin saluted the republic's efforts to rebuild a church and mosque in
the Kazan Kremlin and said that a democratic republic would respect the
religious beliefs of its people, ITAR-TASS reported. During his visit,
Yeltsin wore a Muslim skull cap and promised to build a metro in the
Tatar capital, AFP reported. Russia is estimated to have from 12 to 20
million Muslims. Yeltsin held up Tatarstan's willingness to sign a
treaty with Moscow as an example for Chechnya. In 1991, Tatarstan
declared its independence from Russia but negotiated an autonomy treaty
with the federal government in 1994. The pro-government Our Home Is
Russia won 29% in the republic in the December election, far better than
the second place Communists, while the Islamic party NUR (light) won 5%.
-- Robert Orttung

YELTSIN DECREES MORE SOCIAL BENEFITS. Continuing his pre-election hand-
outs, President Yeltsin signed a series of decrees on 7 and 8 June
increasing social benefits, ITAR-TASS reported. Shortly after ordering
the transfer of 3.8 trillion rubles ($790 million) to the regions to pay
for teachers' annual leave, Yeltsin on 7 June gave the government 20
days to submit a bill to the Duma that would give health and education
specialists civil servant status and raise their salaries. He also
issued a decree increasing benefits to those with garden plots. On 8
June, the president signed an edict giving residents of Russia's Far
East the right to a 50% discount on rail or air fares to central regions
once every two years. Finally, Yeltsin instructed the government to
submit bills to the parliament within a month that would raise child
allowances for single mothers and reduce the tax burden on families with
many children. -- Penny Morvant

CENTRAL ELECTORAL CLEARS YELTSIN CAMPAIGN OF VIOLATIONS. The secretary
of the Central Electoral Commission (TsIK) told the Duma on 7 June that
the TsIK sees no reason to believe that President Yeltsin's campaign is
violating the electoral law, ITAR-TASS reported. In particular, he said
that a 100-page glossy photo album of the president, which the Yeltsin
campaign is handing out, does not count as campaign material in the
opinion of the TsIK's legal experts (OMRI Special Report: Russian
Presidential Election Survey, 5 June 1996). TsIK Chairman Nikolai Ryabov
rejected an invitation from the deputies to participate in the Duma
discussion, claiming that he had to attend a meeting of the TsIK. --
Robert Orttung

GENERALS TOLD NOT TO ORDER TROOPS TO VOTE FOR YELTSIN. The Central
Election Commission told the leaders of the Airborne Troops that their
recent call on troops to vote for President Yeltsin was illegal, the Dow
Jones News service reported on 7 June, citing AP. The deputy commander
of the paratroops, Gen. Vladimir Kazantsev, claimed that the letter sent
to all unit commanders only "recommended" to the troops that they vote
for Yeltsin but did not "urge" them to do so. The commission demanded
that the commander withdraw the letter. -- Doug Clarke

SHANTSEV ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT VIEWED AS POLITICAL. The attack on
Valerii Shantsev, incumbent Yurii Luzhkov's running mate in the 16 June
Moscow mayoral election, has prompted a flurry of accusations and
counteraccusations. Shantsev was seriously injured in an explosion
outside his apartment on 7 June, Russian and Western agencies reported.
Luzhkov speculated that the attack was the work of "pro-communist
forces." His aide claimed that it was aimed at disrupting the mayoral
election. Luzhkov is favored to win, but he would be legally obliged to
withdraw if Shantsev died, as he would not have time to reregister with
another running mate. If Shantsev had died, the mayoral election would
possibly have been cancelled, reducing turnout in the presidential poll
in Moscow. The Communists, meanwhile, claimed that the attack was "the
first in a series of planned provocations" engineered by their opponents
and aimed at derailing the presidential election. -- Penny Morvant

GAZPROM TO BUY SHARES IN NTV. Gazprom, the gas monopoly with close ties
to the government, will soon buy shares in the independent television
network NTV, Kommersant-Daily and The Moscow Times reported on 8 June.
Currently, 77% of the network's shares are held by Vladimir Gusinskii's
Most group, and NTV staff own the rest. Gusinskii will reportedly keep a
controlling share in the network. NTV executives said Gazprom's
investment will help launch five new satellite channels later this year
and will not affect the network's editorial policy. NTV's news coverage
in recent months has reflected a more pro-government slant than its
coverage of last year's parliamentary campaign. The network's president,
Igor Malashenko, joined President Yeltsin's campaign committee in March.
-- Laura Belin in Moscow

DUMA CRITICIZES LATVIA, ESTONIA. The Duma on 7 June passed a resolution
accusing Latvia and Estonia of "deliberately hindering" Russian citizens
living there from participating in the upcoming Russian presidential
election, ITAR-TASS and BNS reported. The resolution appealed to the
OSCE and the Council of Europe, protesting Estonia and Latvia's refusal
to open additional polling stations in areas where large numbers of
Russian citizens. While estimates indicate that about 50,000 Russian
citizens live in Latvia, and 90,000 in Estonia, only around 7,500 and
15,000, respectively, voted in the December 1995 Duma election. Russian
officials blame the low turnout on the lack of polling stations. Estonia
recently decided to permit a fourth polling station in a Tallinn suburb,
and has offered to open more but Moscow has rejected Tallinn's
conditions. (see OMRI Daily Digest, 6 June 1996). -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIAN DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER IN IRAN. Viktor Posavlyuk wrapped up a
three-day visit to Iran by holding talks with Iranian Foreign Minister
Ali Akbar Velyati on 9 June, ITAR-TASS reported. In thinly-veiled
criticism of the U.S., Posavlyuk criticized attempts by unnamed third
countries to "isolate" Iran. Velyati and Posavlyuk jointly criticized
NATO expansion, and said their positions on the disputed issue of
Caspian Sea mineral rights were "similar." But Posavlyuk admitted that
discussions on the ongoing Tajik conflict "were not simple," and added
that he had tried to convince his Iranian interlocutors that "there is
no alternative" to the Middle East peace process, which Tehran opposes.
The next stop on Posavlyuk's regional tour is Baghdad. -- Scott Parrish

GERMAN DEFENSE MINISTER: NO NUKES OR TROOPS NEAR RUSSIA. Volker Ruehe
said that NATO does not plan to station nuclear weapons or foreign
troops near Russia's borders when it expands into Central Europe,
Reuters reported on 8 June. In an interview to appear in Germany's Focus
magazine on 10 June, he was quoted as saying that NATO does not want to
"position nuclear weapons differently or station foreign troops on
Poland's eastern border." He stressed, however, that new members would
have to be "integrated militarily" and would have the same rights and
duties as all other NATO members. -- Doug Clarke

IMF REACTION TO CENTRAL BANK TRANSFER. The IMF has expressed its concern
over the Duma's decision last week to transfer 5 trillion rubles ($1
billion) of the Central Bank's 1994 profits to the federal budget (see
OMRI Daily Digest, 6 June 1996), AFP and Reuters reported on 7 June. An
IMF spokesman said the move does not technically violate the conditions
of its $10.1 billion Extended Facility Fund loan. However, by increasing
the money supply it is likely to spur inflation, which hit an all time
low of 1.6% in May. The IMF called upon the Central Bank to offset the
inflationary impact by selling government bonds on the open market. The
IMF acknowledged that the Russian government is facing budgetary
problems but urged it to take steps to improve tax collection. --
Natalia Gurushina

PRIVATIZATION RUMBLINGS. The State Duma on 7 June discussed the report
of its commission investigating the privatization of Norilsk Nickel last
year, ITAR-TASS reported. The Duma passed a resolution urging the
government to hold onto the state's shares and to take steps to deal
with Norilsk's debt problems. The Duma also created a new commission to
examine the situation at several privatized firms, including the oil
company YUKOS, gold producer Lenzoloto, and chemical giant Apatity. The
Moscow Arbitration Court on 4 June annulled the results of last
December's Sibneft loan-share auction. However, as Nezavisi-maya gazeta
pointed out on 7 June, the Communists have been strangely silent on the
privatization issue, and have not tried to use it in their election
campaign. -- Peter Rutland

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

GEORGIAN COSSACKS CALL FOR PROTECTION OF RUSSIANS IN ABKHAZIA. The Union
of Cossacks of Georgia has sent a letter to President Yeltsin and his
Georgian counterpart, Eduard Shevardnadze, protesting reprisals by
Abkhaz separatist elements against ethnic Russians in Abkhazia and
calling for measures to protect them, according to Georgia's Kontakt
News Agency on 6 June and Radio Rossii on 7 June. The Russian population
of Abkhazia numbers between 70,000 and 80,000 people. -- Liz Fuller

TAJIK GOVERNMENT FORCES ADVANCE ON TAVIL-DARA. Government forces are
closing in on the town of Tavil-Dara, which has been in rebel hands
since early May, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 June. In a two-pronged attack,
government troops have pushed to Chil-Dara, about 25 km west of Tavil-
Dara, and have occupied Kalai-Khussein, 20 km east of Tavil-Dara. The
opposition Voice of Free Tajikistan reported on 8 June that almost 60
government soldiers were killed in the drives, the government confirmed
five dead but gave no casualty figures for the opposition. Meanwhile, in
the town of Obigarm, 80 km east of Dushanbe, opposition fighters
attacked a checkpoint on 8 June; one government soldier was killed and
four wounded before the rebels fled, leaving seven of their own dead,
AFP reported. -- Bruce Pannier

KOMSOMOLSKAYA PRAVDA CASE RESCHEDULED IN KAZAKHSTAN. A Kazakhstani court
on 7 June approved a postponement of the litigation case against the
newspaper Komsomolskaya pravda, ITAR-TASS and RFE/RL reported the same
day. The paper's editors had claimed that due to a heavy workload
surrounding the upcoming Russian election, they would be unable to send
a representative to court until after 16 June. The court has now set the
trial for 21 June. The paper was banned in Kazakhstan after it printed
an article by Nobel Prize winning writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn on 23
April in which he argued that parts of Kazakhstan naturally and
historically belong to Russia. Eleven members of the Kazakhstani
Writers' Union filed a suit against the paper, saying the article was an
infringement on "the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our
state." -- 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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