The last of the human freedoms- to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's way. - Victor Frankl
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 15, Part I, 22 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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
CIS LEADERS MEET IN MOSCOW. Russian President Boris Yeltsin opened the
17th meeting of the CIS Council of heads of state by praising the
"significant practical steps" taken in 1995 toward CIS economic
integration, which he described as "a free choice" by its members that
preserved their "sovereignty and independence," Russian and Western
agencies reported. Yeltsin also called for tighter coordination of
defense and foreign policies within the CIS, arguing that only
collectively could they resolve their security problems. The 12-member
council re-elected Yeltsin as its chairman, who continues to hold the
post despite a 1993 agreement to rotate it. The council addressed 24
topics during its meeting and agreed on a number of issues, including
expanding the Belarus-Russia-Kazakhstan customs union, forming a CIS
Council of Interior Ministers, extending the mandate of CIS peacekeepers
in Tajikistan, resolving the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict, and bolstering
CIS air defense. -- Scott Parrish
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

RUSSIA

HEADS OF STATE APPROVE UNITED CIS AIR DEFENSE SYSTEM. At their 19
January meeting in Moscow, the CIS heads of state unanimously approved a
general plan for guarding their mutual airspace, ITAR-TASS reported. The
Russian president's press service said the plan, which was endorsed by
CIS defense ministers last November, contains the "main guidelines" for
a united system and a long-term goal of creating an integrated aerospace
defense system. The first stage includes, among other programs, the
creation of air defense systems in Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan
and the improvement of the systems in Armenia, Kazakhstan, and
Uzbekistan. The united system includes all the CIS countries except
Azerbaijan, Moldova, and Turkmenistan. -- Doug Clarke

FERRY HIJACKERS SURRENDER. The pro-Chechen hijackers of the ferry
Eurasia surrendered to Turkish authorities on 19 January, ending a four-
day hostage crisis, Russian and Western agencies reported. The
hijackers' leader, Mohammed Tokcan, and three of his men gave themselves
up. Turkish police searching the vessel later arrested another five
gunmen who were hiding. A Turkish spokesman said all nine men would face
criminal charges. Although it ended without bloodshed, the incident
further strained already cool Turkish-Russian relations. Shortly before
the hijackers surrendered, Russian President Yeltsin had harshly
criticized the Turkish handling of the crisis, while on 21 January,
Turkish Prime Minister Tansu Ciller said "mothers and children are being
massacred" in Chechnya and called for international mediation to foster
a "peaceful settlement." -- Scott Parrish

BARSUKOV ASSESSES PERVOMAISKOE OPERATION. Interior Minister Anatolii
Kulikov and Federal Security Service Director Mikhail Barsukov held a
press conference in Moscow on 20 January to discuss the operation to
free the hostages held by Chechen rebels in Pervomaiskoe, Russian media
reported. Barsukov described the hostage-taking in Kizlyar as revenge
for the "defeat of Dudaevism" in the December elections in Chechnya and
as part of Dudaev's aim of "spreading the fire of war" to neighboring
regions. He claimed that if Russian forces had not taken action to end
the crisis, it would have resulted in the escalation of terror in the
North Caucasus and Russia as a whole. Barsukov estimated that about 300
rebels took part in the initial raid on Kizlyar and that 153 were killed
during the Pervomaiskoe operation, meaning that a large number escaped.
With regard to the hostages, he said 82 of the 120 or so who were taken
to Pervomaiskoe were freed. Other estimates place the number of hostages
as high as 200. He added that more than 2,400 federal forces took part
in the operation, of whom 26 were killed and 95 wounded. Asked if the
operation could be regarded as a success, he said that it could, "if
only because the bulk of the gang was annihilated." -- Penny Morvant

PRESS HAMMERS YELTSIN OVER PERVOMAISKOE. Otto Latsis wrote in Izvestiya
on 20 January that Yeltsin's defense of the Pervomaiskoe operation
showed that the president "was doing everything to destroy his already
weak chances of regaining popular support." Latsis slammed the use of
force in Pervomaiskoe as a misguided attempt to present Yeltsin as a
decisive leader, demonstrating instead the incompetence of the Russian
military and the bankruptcy of the government's Chechen policy. Another
Izvestiya article likened Yeltsin's decisions on Pervomaiskoe to the
brutal Chechen policy suggested by LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky,
contending that the opposition is gaining influence over Yeltsin's
decisions. Ekho Moskvy and NTV also offered harsh criticism of Yeltsin's
justification of the bungled Pervomaiskoe operation. -- Scott Parrish

DUMA APPROVES COMMITTEE CHAIRMEN. The State Duma selected leaders for 28
committees, five more than in the last Duma, Russian media reported on
19 January. The Communist Party of the Russian Federation will head nine
committees, including legislation (Anatolii Lukyanov), economic policy
(Yurii Maslyukov), security (Viktor Ilyukhin), and veterans' affairs
(1991 coup plotter Valentin Varennikov). Our Home Is Russia (NDR), the
Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), and Yabloko were each
assigned four committees. NDR's posts include the committees on
privatization (Pavel Bunich) and defense (Lt. Gen. Lev Rokhlin). The
LDPR will head committees on labor and social protection (Sergei
Kalashnikov), geopolitics (Aleksei Mitrofanov), and information policy
(Oleg Finko). Yabloko kept the two major committees it held in the last
Duma: budget (Mikhail Zadornov) and foreign affairs (Vladimir Lukin).
The People's Power faction was assigned three committees, including CIS
affairs (Georgii Tikhonov) and culture (Stanislav Govorukhin). The
Agrarian faction and Russian Regions each got two posts. However,
Russian Regions leader Vladimir Medvedev denounced the way that
committee chairmanships were handed out and his deputy group refused to
accept the two committee chairmanships designated for them, Russian
Public TV (ORT) reported on 19 January. -- Laura Belin

YELTSIN SLAMS CHUBAIS . . . At a press conference on 19 January,
President Yeltsin blamed former First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii
Chubais for the poor showing of Our Home Is Russia in the December Duma
elections, Russian and Western agencies reported. Yeltsin said that the
champion of tight monetary policy, who resigned on 17 January, did a lot
of good things but also made mistakes, and claimed that if he had
removed Chubais earlier, the pro-government party would have got 20% not
10% of the vote. Yeltsin stressed, however, that reform would not be
affected by Chubais' departure. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov said the
Russian people had been swindled by Chubais's privatization measures,
which should be investigated by the Procurator's Office, Radio Mayak
reported. However, in a 19 January interview with Nezavisimaya gazeta,
Deputy Economics Minister Sergei Vasilev expressed concern that
Chubais's removal would have an adverse affect on Russia's loan
negotiations with international financial organizations and thus on the
1996 budget. -- Penny Morvant

. . . AND YAVLINSKII. Yeltsin also blamed the election of Duma Speaker
Gennadii Seleznev, a Communist, on Grigorii Yavlinskii's Yabloko
faction, Russian TV reported 19 January. "If Yabloko had not supported
the Communists, Seleznev would not have been elected," he claimed.
Yavlinskii rejected the charges, saying that a Communist speaker was
inevitable following the 17 December election, Russian Public TV (ORT)
reported. Yabloko Duma member Viktor Sheinis said that Yabloko, whose
members all voted for Yabloko member Vladimir Lukin as speaker, must "go
it alone" in the new Duma because Our Home Is Russia and the newly
formed deputy groups have little future and are riddled with internal
disagreements, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 20 January. -- Robert
Orttung

MOSCOW MAYOR JOINS PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN HEADQUARTERS. Moscow Mayor
Yurii Luzhkov has joined the headquarters for the election of the
Russian president, which is chaired by First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg
Soskovets, Interfax reported on 19 January. Luzhkov and former Chief of
Staff Sergei Filatov have become Soskovets' deputies at the
headquarters. Interfax reported that Luzhkov will be responsible for
preparing the presidential elections in Moscow, where President Yeltsin
has enjoyed strong support. Meanwhile, the governors of Amur and Moscow
oblasts and Stavropol Krai, Vladimir Dyachenko, Anatolii Tyazhlov, and
Petr Marchenko, have been named heads of committees for the re-election
of President Yeltsin in their respective regions, ITAR-TASS and Interfax
reported. Yeltsin has not announced whether he will run for re-election
in June. -- Anna Paretskaya

TATARSTAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE SUSPECTED OF MURDER. A candidate in
Tatarstan's 24 March presidential election, Tatar Communist Party member
Ramil Gabrakhmanov, has been arrested in connection with a murder case.
Interfax-Eurasia reported on 19 January that Gabrakhmanov, who is the
director of the Kazan Vinegar factory company, is suspected of
involvement in the murder of former Kazan criminal police chief
Vladislav Baranov. Several other people have already been detained in
the same case. -- Anna Paretskaya

RUSSIA BLOCKS PROGRESS ON NUCLEAR AGREEMENTS. Frustrated U.S. officials
say Russia has torpedoed the implementation of a nuclear security and
weapons inspection agreement reached by President Yeltsin and his U.S.
counterpart, Bill Clinton, at their May 1995 summit meeting, The
Washington Post reported on 22 January. The officials said that the
mutual inspections and data exchanges called for by the May 1995 joint
statement on "transparency and irreversibility" of nuclear weapons
reductions, which are intended to facilitate mutual monitoring of
nuclear weapons and fissile materials stockpiles, have not occurred. The
joint statement also called for the conclusion of a legal agreement to
ensure protection of the exchanged data, but that has not happened
either. Nicholas Burns, a spokesman for the State Department, said the
U.S. still hopes to implement the agreement, suggesting that high-level
involvement might be needed to push it forward. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIA'S PRODUCTION OF GOLD FALLS . . . Russia produced 111 metric tons
of gold in 1995, a 12% drop compared with 1994, Radio Rossii reported on
21 January, citing the State Statistical Committee. In 1994 gold output
dropped by 11% from 1993. The fall in gold output has been blamed on
rising production costs. The slump in the gold mining industry
contributed to the slowdown in the growth of the non-ferrous metals
industry in 1995, according to the report. -- Natalia Gurushina

. . . WHILE FOREIGN TRADE SOARS. The volume of Russia's foreign trade
totaled $135.7 billion in 1995, a 16% increase over 1994, ITAR-TASS
reported on 19 January, citing the State Statistical Committee. Exports
increased 18% to $77.8 billion and imports increased 15% to $57.9
billion. The formation of the customs union with Kazakhstan and Belarus
boosted Russia's trade with the former Soviet republics, which in 1995
increased by 5% to $29.8 billion (22% of Russia's 1995 foreign trade
turnover). At the same time, there was a 9% decline in Russian exports
to the former Soviet republics (the bulk of which were fuel and energy
resources), whereas imports soared by 21% to $16.3 billion. Russia's
trade turnover with countries outside the former Soviet Union was up 20%
in 1995, reaching $105.9 billion. -- Natalia Gurushina

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

CIS SUMMIT TIGHTENS SCREWS ON ABKHAZIA. Meeting in Moscow on 19 January,
CIS heads of state, with the exception of Belarusian President
Alyaksandr Lukashenka, approved a proposal by Georgian President Eduard
Shevardnadze to ban trade, financial, and economic transactions with the
government of the breakaway Georgian region of Abkhazia, Interfax and
ITAR-TASS reported. Food and medical supplies may be transported to
Abkhazia with Georgia's permission. They also affirmed collective
recognition of Georgia's territorial integrity and extended for a
further three months the mandate of the CIS peacekeeping forces that
have been stationed in Abkhazia since July 1994. The first deputy
speaker of the Abkhaz parliament, Stanislav Lakoba, told Interfax on 20
January that the sanctions may prevent a mediated settlement to the
conflict and said that Russia is no longer an impartial mediator. -- Liz
Fuller

MANDATE OF CIS PEACEKEEPERS IN TAJIKISTAN EXTENDED. The CIS heads of
state decided to extend the term of the CIS peacekeeping force in
Tajikistan until 30 June at their 19 January summit meeting in Moscow,
according to ITAR-TASS. This extension may be the last. President
Yeltsin reportedly told Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov that he had
six months to "get a grip on things." Kazakhstani President Nursultan
Nazarbayev and Uzbek President Islam Karimov have made similar
statements. Troops from Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan
have been helping to defend Tajikistan's border from Tajik rebels based
in Afghanistan. -- Bruce Pannier

TAJIKISTAN'S STATE MUFTI MURDERED. The state-sanctioned spiritual leader of
 Tajikistan and his family were found murdered at their house west of the
capital, Dushanbe, Western sources reported on 22 January. Fatkhullo
Sharifzoda,
his wife, son, daughter-in-law, and one other person were found dead shortly
before midnight on 21 January. The 53-year-old mufti had occupied his position
since December 1992, when current Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov came to
power. -- Bruce Pannier

[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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