Fear of life in one form or another is the great thing to exorcise. - William James
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 23, Part I, 1 February 1995

We welcome you to Part I of the Open Media Research Institute's Daily
Digest. The Digest is distriubed in two sections. This part focuses on
Russia, Transcaucasia and Central Asia, and the CIS. Part II, distributed
simultaneously as a second document, covers East-Central and Southeastern
Europe.

The Daily Digest picks up where the RFE/RL Daily Report, which recently
ceased publication, left off. Contributors include OMRI's 30-member staff
of analysts, plus selected freelance specialists. OMRI is a unique
public-private venture between the Open Society Institute and the U.S.
Board for International Broadcasting.

RUSSIA

STALEMATE IN GROZNY. Despite intensified Russian artillery bombardment of
Grozny, the Chechens yielded no ground on 31 January, Western agencies
reported. A spokesman for the Russian Interior Ministry affirmed that the
Chechens had switched to guerrilla tactics, ITAR-TASS reported. Fierce
fighting was also reported in the village of Samashki west of Grozny,
where, on 30 January, Chechen forces had repelled a Russian armored column
attempting to advance on the capital, according to Reuters. Meanwhile,
Russian troops were concentrating in the village of Gudermes, east of
Grozny, on the main highway to Dagestan where Chechen defenders control a
strategic bridge, AFP reported. In an interview given to Argumenty i fakty
and summarized by ITAR-TASS on 31 January, Federal Counterintelligence
Service (FSK) Director Sergei Stepashin argued that the Russian leadership
had no alternative to the use of force in Chechnya. While terming the
prospect of a prolonged partisan war remote, Stepashin disclosed that his
agency plans to establish a department of up to 800 men in Chechnya to
"confiscate weapons and detain gangsters." Ingush President Ruslan Aushev
denied earlier Russian statements that Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev
was in Ingushetia under his personal protection, Ekho Moskvy reported on 31
January. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc.

OSCE DELEGATION CONDEMNS RUSSIAN ACTION IN CHECHNYA.
The Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe (OSCE) fact-finding
mission has condemned the "disproportionate and indiscriminate" Russian use
of military force against Chechnya. The head of the mission, Hungarian
diplomat Istvan Gyarmati, said the situation in Chechnya borders on
"catastrophe," according to international agencies. The delegation will
report to OSCE headquarters on 2 February. Gyarmati has said he will urge
early elections in Chechnya, so that "the Chechen people's legitimate
representatives can hold talks on the status of the republic within the
Russian Federation." Russian authorities have fully cooperated with the
OSCE, according to Gyarmati. Speaking on 31 January with Willy Wimmer,
deputy chairman of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, State Duma Speaker Ivan
Rybkin defended the Russian military by stressing that when troops "came
into contact with the most modern weapons," they "were forced to respond
accordingly," ITAR TASS reported. Some Russian media also took a different
view of the OSCE mission than the Western press. The daily Izvestiya ran
this headline on 31 January: "After Chechnya, OSCE Delegation 'Sympathizes'
With Russia." The article stressed Gyarmati's comment that the territorial
integrity of Russia must be preserved. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.

COUNCIL OF EUROPE TO DEBATE CHECHNYA IN SPECIAL SESSION The Council of
Europe (CE) will hold a special session on 2 February to debate the
Chechnya situation, Reuters reports. The CE's political questions committee
proposed draft legislation on 30 January that would defer consideration of
Russian membership until the situation in Chechnya is cleared up. The
resolution specified: "Only when Russia's president, government, and
parliament offer a full report on how the conflict will be ended and how
its consequences will be remedied will the (membership) procedure be taken
up." Russian official reaction to the delay was highly critical. According
to Interfax, Duma Speaker Rybkin said a rejection of Russia's request for
membership would be "a gross political error." Russian Deputy Prime
Minister Sergei Shakhrai said the CE would "freeze its own transformation
into an organization for all Europe" if it continued to stall on Russia's
application. He also called Russian Human Rights Commissioner Sergei
Kovalev "a religious fanatic." Kovalev, who was in Strasbourg where the CE
is meeting, said: "As long as blood is being spilt in Chechnya, it is
absurd, immoral, and blasphemous to discuss membership." -- Michael
Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.

RUSSIAN CASUALTIES IN CHECHNYA CONTINUE TO MOUNT.  At least 735 Russian
troops have been killed and 2,500 wounded in Chechnya, AFP reported on 31
January, quoting official sources. Those figures do not include
unidentified bodies in morgues, nor the losses of the FSK. The casualty
toll includes 395 members of the ground forces, 213 paratroopers, 68
Interior Ministry forces, 56 marines, and 3 frontier guards. These figures
indicate that 182 servicemen have been killed since 20 January--the day
Defense Minister Pavel Grachev declared the military part of the operation
over. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.

GAIDAR SAYS CHECHNYA WAR WEAKENED DEMOCRATS. The intervention in Chechnya
has weakened Russia's democratic forces and strengthened the military and
intelligence service, said former acting Prime Minister Egor Gaidar in an
interview with the German TV station ARD, cited by dpa on 31 January.
Warning of "a very dangerous development" in Russia, Gaidar said:
"[President Boris] Yeltsin's closest aides agree with everything he says
and only pass on information that will not disturb him. However, in this
way the servants are secretly taking over the regime." -- Penny Morvant,
OMRI, Inc.

RYBKIN DENOUNCES ZHIRINOVSKY'S BEHAVIOR. Duma Speaker Rybkin attacked the
behavior of Vladimir Zhirinovsky as "totally inadmissible," AFP reported 31
January. Rybkin was reacting to Zhirinovsky's comment at a Council of
Europe meeting in Strasbourg on 30 January that Russia's most outspoken
critic of the Chechen war, Sergei Kovalev, was "a scum" and that he
belonged "in a concentration camp." Zhirinovsky also accused Kovalev of
lying when he condemned human rights violations by the Russian armed forces
in Chechnya. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

KARASIN SAYS OUTBURSTS IN CONGRESS STRAIN US-RUSSIAN RELATIONS.
"Confrontational outbursts in the US Congress are fraught with the danger
of seriously complicating our relations and do not reflect the national
interests of the United States itself," said Russian Foreign Ministry
spokesman Grigorii Karasin, according to a Los Angeles Times report on 31
January. Karasin's statement was in response to a bill, introduced last
month by Rep. Gerald Solomon, that would make American aid dependent on
Russia's arms control policies, its behavior toward its neighbors, and
progress toward a free-market economy. Karasin warned that appeals to
"punish Russia" were not acceptable. His remarks were a sign of the growing
strain between the US and Russia since the Republicans took control of
Congress in November and the beginning of the Chechen war in December. --
Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

DUMA ELECTIONS IN DECEMBER. Aleksandr Ivanchenko, deputy chairman of the
Central Electoral Commission, said elections to the lower house of Russia's
parliament will be held in December, ITAR-TASS reported on 31 January. The
December date is in line with the constitution, but Vladimir Shumeiko, the
chairman of parliament's upper house, said only last week he believes the
current parliament's term should be extended by another two years. -- Penny
Morvant, OMRI, Inc.

RUSSIA TO CONTINUE SELLING ARMS TO PERU. Foreign Ministry spokesman Karasin
said Russian arms sales to Peru would continue "in accordance with
international law and depending on how the situation in the region
develops," AFP reported on 31 January. Military skirmishes have erupted
recently between Peru and Ecuador over a disputed border region. According
to a Segodnya report, quoted by the agency, Russia had recently cut off its
arms sales to Peru because the South American country had not paid for
previous deliveries. But the report said contacts between Russian and
Peruvian defense officials were renewed after the recent hostilities broke
out. Peru has Russian jet fighters, attack helicopters, and tanks in its
military. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.

PROTOTYPE OF NEW RUSSIAN TANK SPOTTED. Russia has built the prototype for a
revolutionary new main battle tank, according to the 25 January issue of
Jane's Defense Weekly. It was said to have been first spotted at the
Scientific and Research Institute for Armor and Technology at Kubinka, near
Moscow, late last year. The magazine said the tank was fitted with an
externally mounted, long-barreled gun which might have a caliber of 135-140
millimeters. This would give it a greater armor penetration capability than
the 125 mm smooth-bore gun on the most modern Russian tanks in service. The
new tank was said to have a three-man crew. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.

VLADISLAV LISTEV: OSTANKINO TURNS "PUBLIC" ON 1 APRIL. Vladislav Listev,
the new general director of Russian Public TV, formerly known as Ostankino,
announced that he begins his tenure on 1 February and repeated that he will
turn the station into the best channel in the country. Listev reminded
viewers of "Vremya" on 31 January that the formerly state-owned
broadcasting company was made "public" by a presidential decree in 1994. In
fact, this means it became a joint-stock company with the state retaining a
51% stake. Listev said Ostankino starts functioning as a public TV station
on 1 April. Listev founded and hosted some of Russia's most popular
political and entertainment shows. A few of them, however, have become
considerably less popular under Listev's hand-picked successors. -- Julia
Wishnevsky, OMRI, Inc.

SOUTHERN RUSSIA COAL MINERS ON STRIKE. All 26 mines of the Rostovugol coal
mine complex in southern Russia went on strike on 1 February because of pay
delays, trade union officials reported to AFP. Ivan Mokhnachuk, a coal
union representative, told AFP that the government owed Russian miners back
pay totaling 893 billion rubles ($220 million) in 1994 and 600 billion
rubles ($150 million) so far this year. Yurii Malyshev, chairman of the
Rosugol coal production enterprise, said he would meet government officials
to seek a solution to the crisis. Coal mining enterprises are owed more
than 2.1 trillion rubles ($523 million). The larger part of that is owed by
industrial consumers, mainly electricity producers, while the rest, about
850 billion rubles ($212 million), is owed by the government from budget
allocations. Meanwhile, miners in the northern Russian town of Vorkuta and
the town of Perm in the Ural Mountains warned that they were also prepared
to halt operations, Interfax reported. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.

ACTING CHIEF AFFIRMS PRIVATIZATION WILL CONTINUE. Russia's new acting
privatization chief, Petr Mostovoi, stressed that the privatization process
will continue and recently privatized firms will not be nationalized,
according to Russian and Western agencies on 31 January. Mostovoi replaced
Vladimir Polevanov, who was dismissed on 24 January for urging the reversal
of some recent privatizations in the fuel and aluminum industries. Mostovoi
said Russia must "emphasize that our relations with foreign investors
remains on the same basis as they were before Polevanov." Investors in
Russia's small securities markets panicked in mid-January when Polevanov
suggested that some firms be renationalized. Share prices fell sharply as
foreign investors shied away from the market. Mostovoi, formerly a deputy
to reform chief Anatolii Chubais, said the "participation of foreign
investors in Russia is a factor in the integration of Russia in the world
community . . . one which promotes positive economic process, both in our
country and in countries from where capital comes." Russia's current
priorities in the field of privatization include the creation of a
favorable investment climate, financial stabilization, clear rules on tax
and investment policies, and clarification of the state's role in the
privatization process. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.

YELTSIN VETOES RISE IN MINIMUM PENSION. President Yeltsin vetoed a law
passed by parliament which would have raised the monthly minimum pension to
54,100 rubles and indexed pensions to cost of living increases, ITAR-TASS
reported on 30 January. The president admitted pensioners need the extra
money but said the country cannot afford it. Instead, Yeltsin issued a
decree doubling the minimum pension from 19,660 to 39,360 rubles a month to
compensate for price hikes in the last quarter of 1994. The parliament has
also voted to triple the minimum wage, which critics say will unduly
increase the budget deficit. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc.

As of 12:00 CET
Compiled by Victor Gomez

The OMRI Daily Digest offers the latest news from the former Soviet Union
and East-Central and Southeastern Europe. It is published Monday through
Friday by the Open Media Research Institute. The Daily Digest is
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Telephone: (42 2) 6114 2114 Fax: (42 2) 426 396


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