The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be ignited. - Plutarch
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 13, Part I, 18 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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
HIJACKED FERRY HEADS FOR ISTANBUL. The ferry Eurasia, hijacked in
Trabzon by pro-Chechen fighters, continued steaming toward Istanbul,
Russian and Western agencies reported on 18 January. Reports identified
the leader of the hijackers as Mohammed Tokcan, an ethnic Abkhazian who
fought with Shamil Basaev in the Chechen and Abkhaz conflicts. Although
the hijackers earlier threatened to blow up the vessel unless Russian
forces ceased their attack on Pervomaiskoe, the Turkish news agency
Anatolia reported that a deal had been reached under which the hijackers
would surrender in return for being allowed to hold a news conference on
their arrival in Istanbul. On 17 January, Russian officials complained
that although they had repeatedly warned the Turkish government about
the activities of Chechen extremists in Turkey, they had been
"lightheartedly" ignored, a charge the Turkish Foreign Ministry denied.
Estimates of the number of ethnic Chechens living in Turkey range from
5,000 to 40,000. -- Scott Parrish
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

RUSSIA

RUSSIAN FORCES POUND PERVOMAISKOE. . . Russian Federal Security Service
(FSB) spokesman Aleksandr Mikhailov announced on 17 January that since
there "are no hostages left" in Pervomaiskoe, federal troops would give
up trying to rescue them and would launch an intensive bombardment of
the village in order to eliminate the band of Chechen fighters led by
Salman Raduev, Russian and Western agencies reported. However, at the
time, only 28 of an estimated 70-150 hostages had been freed, although
Mikhailov yet again claimed that Raduev was executing hostages. GRAD
multiple-rocket launchers then began a withering bombardment of the
village. Heavy fighting amid flaming buildings continued overnight as
ITAR-TASS reported that federal troops had repulsed an attempt by
Raduev's fighters to break out of the village and also turned back an
attack by pro-Dudaev fighters who had crossed the border from Chechnya
and attempted to break through the forces encircling the village. --
Scott Parrish

. . .WHILE TIGHTENING CONTROL OF PRESS. As the bombardment of
Pervomaiskoe continued, the FSB ordered journalists in the neighboring
village of Sovetskoe to leave the area, AFP reported on 17 January. The
expulsion left journalists without a direct view of the buildings in
Pervomaiskoe. Nonetheless, Izvestiya correspondent Valerii Yarov, who
had been out of touch with the paper for four days, (see OMRI Daily
Digest, 17 January 1995) filed a report detailing the botched storming
of the village, which he said had been reduced to rubble. Yakov added
that if any hostages survived, it would not be because they had been
"saved" but because they were "lucky." He condemned the entire operation
as a failure, saying that its only "clear success" was the muzzling of
journalists trying to cover it. Ekho Moskvy and NTV offered similar
negative appraisals of the operation. -- Scott Parrish

INTERNATIONAL REACTION TO PERVOMAISKOE. While condemning the taking of
hostages by Chechen fighters, Western governments and international
organizations have also cautioned the Russian government against a
disproportionate use of force, Russian and Western agencies reported on
17 January. Council of Europe officials, whose Parliamentary Assembly
will consider Russia's application for membership on 25 January, warned
that Moscow's harsh military actions might reduce the chances of Russia
gaining admission. A German Foreign Ministry spokesman condemned the
hostage-taking as terrorism but urged Russia to use "commensurate means"
to combat it, a view seconded by the U.S. and Ukraine. Danish Defense
Minister Hans Haekkerup openly denounced Moscow's military actions,
however, and spokesmen for the opposition German Social Democratic Party
slammed Western governments for a "lack of principle and cynicism" in
failing to openly criticize Russia's massive use of military force. --
Scott Parrish

HOSTAGE-TAKING IN SIBERIA THWARTED. Interior Ministry special forces
used force to free more than 20 oil workers taken hostage on a bus in
the town of Surgut in Tyumen Oblast on 17 January, ITAR-TASS reported.
None of the hostages was hurt, but the armed assailant, a young Russian,
was fatally wounded during the storming of the bus. Early TASS reports
said the hijacker had demanded to be taken by plane to the Kizlyar
region in Dagestan, where Russian troops have been battling Chechen
forces. -- Penny Morvant

DUMA ADOPTS STATEMENT ON TERRORISM. The Duma adopted a statement on 17
January calling on the government to adopt adequate measures to stop the
terrorist activities of Chechen separatists, ITAR-TASS reported.
However, the statement pointed out that the previous Duma had repeatedly
called for a peaceful solution to the conflict but that "practically
none" of these appeals were taken into account by the president and
government. The same day, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin asked the
Duma to support the government's policy in Chechnya. He warned against
those who deliberately or unconsciously exacerbate the situation by
demanding the "separation of Chechnya from Russia, division of Chechnya,
preservation of inter-Chechen confrontation, or the immediate withdrawal
of Russian troops." -- Robert Orttung

DUMA ELECTS COMMUNIST SPEAKER. The Duma elected Gennadii Seleznev, a
Communist-backed candidate, as its speaker in the third round of voting
on 17 January with 231 votes, just above the 226 required for victory,
ITAR-TASS reported. Former Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin, supported by Our
Home Is Russia, won 150 votes and Yabloko's Vladimir Lukin won 50. The
Agrarian and Popular Power factions and some members of the Liberal
Democratic Party supported Seleznev, NTV reported. Russian Regions did
not reveal its position before the voting. The new speaker began his
career as a reporter in 1974 at the youth paper Smena. He edited
Komsomolskaya pravda from 1980-1988, later moving to Uchitelskaya gazeta
and ultimately becoming editor of Pravda. A member of the previous Duma,
he became deputy speaker in January 1995. Seleznev, 48, said his first
task will be to review and act on more than 500 proposed laws leftover
from the previous Duma and to adopt decisions on the violence in the
Caucasus. -- Robert Orttung

COMMUNISTS DO NOT PLAN NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE. In discussing future
relations between the president and the Duma, Seleznev approved
Yeltsin's recent cabinet reshuffle and efforts to give workers their
unpaid wages, as well as Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's decision
to reevaluate his social policy, all demands previously made by the
Communists. Seleznev told reporters that he does not plan any no-
confidence votes in the government "tomorrow," ITAR-TASS reported.
However, Yabloko deputy Yelena Mizulina called a no-confidence vote to
be taken soon. Presidential adviser Georgii Satarov said that he would
have preferred Rybkin as speaker but added that it is possible to work
with Seleznev, Radio Rossii reported. -- Robert Orttung

YABLOKO KEY TO SPEAKER VOTE. Yabloko's maneuvering in the vote for the
speakership allowed the Communists to win by preventing the election of
Rybkin as an anti-communist speaker. Yabloko initially made a deal with
the Communists that they would not support a united non-communist
candidate for speaker. Under the deal the Communists would nominate
Seleznev as speaker instead of Valentin Kuptsov, while Yabloko, the
smallest of the four factions to cross the 5% barrier, would be allowed
to preserve its chairmanship of the budget and international affairs
committees, Izvestiya reported on 18 January. After the initial
stalemate, the Communists were able to collect the few more votes than
they needed in the absence of a united opposition candidate. The failure
of Our Home Is Russia, Yabloko, and the LDPR to work together before the
Duma session began will cost them committee assignments, since at this
point the committees must be divided among the seven deputy factions
currently registered rather than the initial four. -- Robert Orttung

UNITED COMMUNIST CANDIDATE FOR PRESIDENCY? Nikolai Ryzhkov, former
Soviet prime minister and leader of the Popular Power faction in the new
Duma, said he probably will not stand for the presidency in June, RIA-
Novosti reported on 17 January. Ryzhkov said he was not going to copy
former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev by running for the presidency
without national support. Ryzhkov said he would change his position only
if he receives the backing of a serious public movement. His refusal to
join the race will increase the chances of other Communist candidates.
Although the Communists are considering nominating one candidate for the
presidency, it is unlikely that they will have a single candidate in the
first round of elections, Segodnya reported on 17 January. The Central
Electoral Commission has already registered three initiative groups
which nominated the leftist candidates Gennadii Zyuganov, Aman Tuleev,
and Viktor Anpilov. Communist Duma member Petr Romanov has also
announced plans to run. -- Anna Paretskaya

NEW DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF CENTRAL BANK APPOINTED. Russian Central Bank
Chairman Sergei Dubinin appointed Aleksandr Turbanov as his deputy on 16
January, Interfax reported the same day. A source at the bank said that
there had been no reshuffling of responsibilities among members of the
bank's board of directors yet, and a final decision on the matter will
be made after the composition of the board is confirmed by the
government. However, Turbanov is likely to take over the bank's legal
department and deal with security issues at the bank's various branches.
-- Natalia Gurushina

ENERGY CONSUMERS' DEBTS TOP $9.4 BILLION. Only 77% of all the energy
delivered to Russian consumers in 1995 has been paid for, ITAR-TASS
reported on 17 January, citing Anatolii Dyakov, president of the United
Energy System of Russia Company. As of 1 January 1996, Russian fuel and
energy producing companies were owed about 44 trillion rubles ($9.4
billion), a 76% increase over the amount owed on 1 January 1995. Whereas
in the third quarter of the year the level of overdue payments was
comparatively low (4-11% of total deliveries), in November-December it
soared to 30-55%, amounting to 17 trillion rubles ($3.63 billion) in
that period. According to Dyakov, the fact that many consumers are not
paying has resulted in a substantial increase in the debt owed by
energy-producers to the budget and fuel suppliers. The debt is now 35
trillion rubles ($7.48 billion), of which 17 trillion is owed to the
federal budget and 11 trillion to fuel suppliers. -- Natalia Gurushina

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT RATIFIES FRIENDSHIP TREATY WITH RUSSIA. The Georgian
parliament voted by 141-34 on 17 January to ratify the treaty on
friendship and cooperation with the Russian Federation which was signed
in February 1994. Deputies from the opposition National Democratic Party
voted against ratifying the treaty on the grounds that its ratification
by the Russian State Duma was questionable and that it provides for an
"unacceptable" military union between the two countries, according to
Interfax. -- Liz Fuller

EBRD, DEUTSCHE BANK CREDITS TO TURKMENISTAN. The EBRD will invest $17.8
million in joint venture involving Turkmenistan's Textile Industry
Ministry and the Turkish firm GAP-Iplik Sanayi ve Ticaret, Interfax
reported on 17 January. The funds will be used to upgrade an existing
denim producing factory outside Ashgabat. Meanwhile, Deutsche Bank will
extend Turkmenistan a $24 million credit to import food, Interfax
reported the same day. The bank earlier provided a $54 million credit to
Turkmenistan to construct a runway for Ashgabat international airport.
-- Lowell Bezanis

UZBEK-TURKMEN AGREEMENTS. Uzbek President Islam Karimov arrived in
Chardzhou, Turkmenistan on 16 January to sign a package of agreements
with his Turkmen counterpart, Saparmurad Niyazov, Turkey's Zaman
newspaper reported the same day. The paper called the meeting a
"historic summit," pointing out that a consensus on outstanding problems
over borders and the sharing of the waters of the Amu Darya River was
reached. Relations between Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan have been icy in
the post-independence period; lately tension along the Chardzhou-Bukhara
Oblast border has reportedly been on the rise. -- Lowell Bezanis

TAJIK OPPOSITION FIGURE REJECTS PARDON. Oynihol Bobonazarova, deputy
chairman of the Democratic Party of Tajikistan, has rejected a pardon
granted to her by the Tajik government, calling it "an absurd act,"
according to a Radio Voice of Free Tajikistan report cited by the BBC on
18 January. On 12 January, Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov granted
pardons to three opposition figures, Bobonazarova, Shodmon Yusuf, and
Bozor Sobir--effectively ending the government's legal actions against
the three begun in 1993. -- Roger Kangas

[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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