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OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 6, Part I, 9 January 1996


We welcome you to Part I of the Open Media Research Institute's Daily
Digest. This part focuses on Russia, Transcaucasia and Central Asia.
Part II, distributed simultaneously as a second document, covers
Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe.  Back issues of the Daily
Digest, and other information about OMRI, are available through our WWW
pages: http://www.omri.cz/Index.html

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^TODAY'S TOP STORY^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
CHECHEN REBELS SEIZE HOSTAGES IN DAGESTAN. Chechen rebels led by a son-
in-law of President Dzhokhar Dudaev occupied a hospital and maternity
home in the town of Kizlyar in Dagestan in the early morning of 9
January, ITAR-TASS and Western agencies reported. The rebels took up to
1,000 people hostage and demanded the withdrawal of Russian troops from
Chechnya, ITAR-TASS reported. A fierce exchange of fire was reported
between the Chechen contingent and several hundred Russian troops who
surrounded the buildings; at least five civilians, two police officers,
and five Chechen militants were reported to have been killed. -- Liz
Fuller
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

RUSSIA

YELTSIN BLASTS SECURITY MINISTRIES. Following a 9 January meeting with
Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and other high-ranking officials to
discuss the situation in Kizlyar, President Boris Yeltsin sharply
criticized the leaders of Russia's security ministries for failing to
prevent the attack by pro-Dudaev fighters. "How can we understand you
generals?" said Yeltsin. "The lessons which should have been learned by
the security services were apparently not sufficient," he added, in an
obvious reference to last June's Budennovsk events, when Chechen
fighters also seized a hospital and hundreds of hostages. "The Border
Guards were sleeping," Yeltsin noted, pointing out that he had
previously ordered the administrative boundary between Chechnya and
Dagestan sealed against incursions. -- Scott Parrish

FEDERATION COUNCIL APPARATUS MISAPPROPRIATED FUNDS. An audit of the
Federation Council apparatus requested by the Council itself found that
during 1994 and the first half of 1995, 700 million rubles ($152,000) in
budgetary funds were misappropriated, Radio Rossii reported on 8
January. For instance, bureaucrats spent 82 million rubles ($18,000) on
sportswear, 90 million rubles ($19,500) on holiday gifts, and 15 million
rubles ($3300) on wine and vodka for trips abroad. -- Laura Belin

DEMOCRATIC RUSSIA MAY NOMINATE STAROVOITOVA FOR PRESIDENT. In October,
Democratic Russia withdrew from the party-list ballot and threw its
support behind Yabloko for the Duma elections, but the movement appears
unwilling to endorse Grigorii Yavlinskii for the presidency. Andrei
Frolov, a Democratic Russia representative, told Interfax on 7 January
that "all democratic forces" in Russia should unite behind one
presidential candidate. But he added that Democratic Russia may yet
nominate its own candidate, most likely co-leader Galina Starovoitova,
who was elected to the Duma from a St. Petersburg single-member
district. Democratic Russia helped form the Russia's Choice movement in
1993 but split with Yegor Gaidar the following year. -- Laura Belin

MORE CALLS FOR UNITY AMONG DEMOCRATS. Dmitrii Kataev, a member of
Democratic Russia's federal council, wrote in the 5 January issue of
Kuranty that democratic parties must move beyond discussions and round
tables and form a "single organization." He said this organization
should include members of various parties and seek compromise positions
on issues but should then enforce party discipline to support the
positions agreed upon. Kataev said such an organization should be built
from below, starting with local and regional branches of democratic
parties. However, he admitted that unity is easier to support in
principle than in practice. At Democratic Russia's April 1995 congress,
delegates voted nearly unanimously to form a united democratic bloc, but
only half as many voted to join Yavlinskii's party and half that number
voted to unite with Gaidar. -- Laura Belin

GAIDAR: YABLOKO AND OUR HOME IS RUSSIA SHOULD COOPERATE. In a 5 January
interview with Nezavisimaya gazeta, Russia's Democratic Choice leader
Yegor Gaidar said reconciliation between his party and Yabloko is no
longer the "main question of democracy in Russia." He added that
"however humiliating it may be for us," the main question now is a
rapprochement between Yabloko and Our Home Is Russia (NDR). Gaidar said
his party will try to persuade Yabloko and NDR to agree on a common
presidential candidate in the first round of elections, so as not to
leave Russians with a choice between Gennadii Zyuganov and Vladimir
Zhirinovsky in the runoff. He added, "Let Yabloko, which received fewer
votes, and NDR, which received more votes, agree on whom they should
nominate." Gaidar has already said he will not run for president in
1996. -- Laura Belin

KALMYKIYA CREATES OIL AND GAS MINISTRY. Kalmykiyan President Kirsan
Ilumzhinov has issued a decree creating a Gas and Oil Production
Ministry in the republic, Interfax reported on 4 January. Under the
decree, the ministry is to carry out land surveys and develop the
republic's hydrocarbon resources. The ministry will also be responsible
for implementing a $22 million project to build an oil refinery in the
Kalmykiyan capital Elista. The refinery has been under negotiation with
a number of foreign countries since August last year. Currently,
Kalmykiya ships all its crude to neighboring regions for processing in
return for manufactured goods. -- Anna Paretskaya

RUSSIA URGES IRAQ TO ACCEPT UN OFFER. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister
Viktor Posuvalyuk, currently on a tour of the Middle East, urged Iraq to
accept the terms of UN Security Council Resolution 986, Russian and
Western agencies reported on 8 January. Under the resolution, Iraq can
sell a limited amount of oil under UN supervision in order to purchase
food and medicine. Iraq has rejected the resolution as an infringement
on its sovereignty. On 5 January, the UN Security Council again extended
its trade embargo against Iraq, imposed after the 1990 invasion of
Kuwait, citing Iraqi failure to cooperate with UN disarmament
inspectors. -- Scott Parrish

MORE RUSSIAN PEACEKEEPERS TO EAST SLAVONIA? According to sources at the
UN, Russia may be asked to boost the number of its peacekeepers in
Eastern Slavonia, Western agencies reported on 8 January. The UN will
soon formally establish a new mission of some 5,000 peacekeepers in the
Serb-dominated area of Croatia, which is to gradually revert to Croatian
control under a 12 November agreement. Russia currently has about 950
peacekeepers serving in Eastern Slavonia under a previous UN mandate and
could be asked to double that number for the new force. Meanwhile, ITAR-
TASS reported that the lead elements of the Russian brigade
participating in the Bosnian peace implementation force (IFOR) will
arrive in Bosnia on 11 or 12 January. How Russia will pay for its
participation in these peacekeeping operations, however, remains
unresolved, as Russian media have repeatedly pointed out. -- Scott
Parrish

RUSSO-NORWEGIAN FISHING DISPUTE. Russian fishermen are angered by
restrictions recently placed on the amount of herring Russian trawlers
can catch in Norwegian territorial waters, Russian Public TV (ORT)
reported on 9 January. The Norwegian government's restrictions allow the
country's own fishermen to catch 705,000 tons of herring annually, while
Russia will be restricted to only 1/6 that amount. The Russian State
Committee for Fisheries plans to protest the Norwegian regulations,
saying they are a violation of earlier Russo-Norwegian agreements and
unfair because the herring spawn in Russian waters but then migrate to
Norwegian territory after they mature. ORT attributed the restrictions
to purely financial motives, since herring sells for $500/ton on the
world market. -- Scott Parrish

HEALTH MINISTER DENIES EMBRYO EXPERIMENTS. Health Minister Aleksandr
Tsaregorodtsev denied on 8 January a television report claiming that
aborted embryos are sold to foreign doctors in Moscow for use in
developing a drug to treat Down's Syndrome, Russian media reported. The
report, based on an investigation by Germany's Spiegel-TV and shown on
NTV's "Itogi" on 7 January, claimed that more than 1,000 women went to a
Moscow maternity center to have late-term abortions, signing documents
giving doctors rights over the dead embryos, and that the drug used in
the operations is banned in Germany. Tsaregorodtsev, who was ordered by
the prime minister conduct an urgent investigation into the allegations,
rejected the report, asserting that abortions in Russia are carried out
within 21 weeks of conception. He also denied that footage showing
abortions of almost fully formed embryos was shot in a Moscow clinic and
said that the drug allegedly used in the abortions is not registered in
Russia. -- Penny Morvant

AUTHORITIES IN BASHKORTOSTAN COVER UP SCALE OF OIL SPILL. A leak from an
oil pipeline running along the Belaya River in Bashkortostan that has
contaminated the drinking water of dozens of villages near the capital
Ufa is far larger than was initially reported, Bashkortostan's
environment minister, Rustem Khamitov, said on 6 January. The
authorities had initially maintained that the spill, which occurred on
27 December, involved only 100-150 tons of crude oil, but they now admit
that thousands of tons of oil may have been lost. As of 8 January clean-
up workers had recovered more than 560 tons of oil mixed with water and
absorbents, and a higher than normal concentration of oil has been found
downstream in neighboring Tatarstan. Authorities in Bashkortostan claim
they were deliberately misled by the company that runs the pipeline. --
Penny Morvant

KIVELIDI REPORTEDLY KILLED BY CHEMICAL DEVELOPED FOR RUSSIAN MILITARY.
Ivan Kivelidi, the late chairman of Rosbiznesbank and the Russian
Business Roundtable, was poisoned by a chemical developed for the
Russian military, according to an 8 January Interfax report citing a
source close to the Moscow procurator. Kivelidi died in hospital on 4
August 1995 from heavy-metal poisoning; his secretary, who displayed
similar symptoms, also died (see OMRI Daily Digest, 7 August 1995). A
member of the Board of Rosbiznesbank was detained in connection with the
investigation in October but released a month later without charges
being brought. Most contract killings in Russia remain unsolved. --
Penny Morvant

EARTHQUAKE HITS SAKHALIN. An earthquake measuring 6.1 on the Richter
scale shook northern Sakhalin on the night of 8-9 January rendering 14
apartment blocks uninhabitable, ITAR-TASS reported. There were no
casualties and no serious damage to oil or gas pipelines. The epicenter
of the quake was close to Neftegorsk, the oil town destroyed by a major
quake last May that killed more than 1,800 people. Another minor quake
was registered on 9 January near the Kuril Island of Urup. -- Penny
Morvant

INVESTMENT BOOM UNLIKELY IN 1996. In a debate on Radio Rossii on 8
January, presidential adviser Aleksandr Livshits, seemingly recovered
from his recent heart trouble, said the reduction in inflation may cause
interest rates to fall from their current level of 100% per year, which
would lead to a revival of domestic investment. Domestic investment has
fallen to about 25% of its 1990 level. However, the prospects for an
inflow of foreign investment look dim. Economist Pavel Bunich said there
is little chance that Yeltsin will sign a bill on production sharing
which was passed by parliament, because of the Duma's amendments
limiting privileges for foreign investors. On 7 January, First Deputy
Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais said on Radio Mayak that "the world
reaction to the Duma elections has been strong, maybe too strong," which
will unfortunately scare off foreign investors. -- Peter Rutland

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

KARIMOV AND NIYAZOV AGREE TO MEET. After months of disagreements and
canceled meetings, Uzbek President Islam Karimov and Turkmen President
Saparmurad Niyazov have finally agreed to meet in the Turkmen city of
Chardzhou. According to Radio Mayak on 5 January, the leaders will meet
on 16 January to discuss the problem of water conservation and
management in the Amu Darya River, as well as the potential development
of oil and gas reserves on the right bank of the river, which defines
part of the Uzbek-Turkmen border. -- Roger Kangas

REBELS OR DRUG-RUNNERS? On 7 January, Russian border troops killed four
armed men out of a group of 15 who attempted to cross into Tajikistan
from Afghanistan near Pyanj, while the rest fled back across the border,
Russian and Western media reported. Although NTV reported that the group
were rebels who had crossed to commit sabotage and terrorism, another
band that was repelled in the same area by Russian forces on 6 January
left behind 70 kg of narcotics valued at 300 million rubles (about
$650,000). Meanwhile, in an area near Kalai-Khumb Russian troops
detained two men and confiscated 8 kg of narcotics on 7 January. The
recent incidents suggest that this latest outbreak of violence along the
border is likely the result of the drug trade rather than intensified
rebel activity. -- Bruce Pannier

IMF CONDITIONS FOR MORE AID TO GEORGIA. The IMF has put forward several
conditions for the continuation of financial aid to Georgia, Interfax
reported on 8 January. According to the office of the Georgian Minister
of State, the IMF requires that the budget be approved in January and
that laws be adopted on commercial banks and the buying and selling of
land. The initial draft predicted a budget deficit equal to 28% of GDP.
-- Irakli Tsereteli

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez

The OMRI Daily Digest offers the latest news from the former Soviet
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              Copyright (C) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc.
                       All rights reserved. ISSN 1211-1570
 
         

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