It is easier to love humanity than to love one's neighbor. - Eric Hoffer
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 17, Part I, 24 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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
YELTSIN, ZAVGAEV ON CHECHEN PROSPECTS. President Boris Yeltsin met on 23
January with his envoy to Chechnya, Security Council Secretary Oleg
Lobov, to discuss the situation in Chechnya and sign a decree on the
economic restoration of the republic in 1996, Interfax reported.
Addressing the first session of the new Federation Council on the same
day, Yeltsin reiterated the Russian leadership's commitment to resolving
the Chechen conflict through "patient dialog" with all parties concerned
while at the same time cracking down on terrorism and hostage taking.
Meanwhile, the exchange of hostages taken at Pervomaiskoe for the bodies
of Salman Raduev's men who were killed there failed to take place as
scheduled on 23 January because Russian investigators had not succeeded
in identifying all 153 corpses found in the village, Russian media
reported. -- Liz Fuller
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

RUSSIA

YABLOKO TO PROPOSE NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE. The Yabloko Duma faction has
collected 45 of the 90 signatures needed to call a vote of no confidence
following the government's handling of the Pervomaiskoe hostage crisis,
Russian media reported on 23 January. However, Duma Speaker Gennadii
Seleznev said the Communist Party probably will not support Yabloko's
motion, since the party is satisfied with the recent cabinet reshuffle,
especially the resignations of Andrei Kozyrev and Anatolii Chubais.
Seleznev said the Communist deputies will reserve judgment until they
see the government's new proposals. -- Laura Belin

ZHIRINOVSKY PRAISES YELTSIN. Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR) leader
Vladimir Zhirinovsky said that he liked President Boris Yeltsin's
position on terrorism in Russia and his "corrections to the course of
reform," ITAR-TASS reported 23 January. Zhirinovsky emphasized that he
would not criticize the government if its policies started to produce a
real improvement in the lives of ordinary Russians. Zhirinovsky's
remarks followed Yeltsin's speech opening the Federation Council
session. Zhirinovsky has often supported Yeltsin policies in the past
and may now be seeking a more overt alliance with the incumbent
president to win ministerial appointments for his party. -- Robert
Orttung

LAST TWO DUMA COMMITTEE HEADS APPROVED. Nikolai Gerasimenko and Vladimir
Goman were appointed to chair the Duma committees on health and northern
affairs, ITAR-TASS reported on 23 January. Both are from the centrist
Russian Regions faction, which initially refused to fill the Duma posts
allocated to it on the grounds that the committees had been unfairly
distributed. -- Laura Belin

FEDERATION COUNCIL ELECTS FORMER POLITBURO MEMBER AS CHAIRMAN. The
Federation Council elected former Politburo member and now Orel Oblast
Governor Yegor Stroev as its new chairman on 23 January, Russian media
reported. Stroev ran unopposed. He stressed that his priorities would be
to address the problems of federalism, including the "complete lack of
coordination" among Russia's regions and republics. He added that he
would also work on improving the attendance records of Council members;
the previous Council often had difficulty gathering a quorum because its
members were too busy to come to its sessions. Stroev has been a member
of the Our Home Is Russia leadership since May. He was elected governor
of Orel Oblast on 11 April 1993 and won 80% of the vote in his December
1993 campaign for a seat in the Federation Council. -- Robert Orttung

DUMA PROTESTS BALTIN SACKING. The Duma on 23 January passed a resolution
"firmly protesting" the recent decision by President Yeltsin and his
Ukrainian counterpart, Leonid Kuchma, to dismiss Admiral Eduard Baltin
as commander of the Black Sea Fleet, ITAR-TASS reported (see OMRI Daily
Digest, 22 January 1996). The resolution, passed by a vote of 276-2, was
sponsored by Communist Deputy Valentin Varennikov, a1991 coup plotter
who now chairs the Veteran's Affairs Committee, and Lt. Gen. (ret.)
Aleksandr Lebed. The resolution said Baltin's departure effectively
signaled "the dismantling of the entire Black Sea Fleet" and indirectly
criticized Yeltsin for submitting to pressure from Kuchma to sack
Baltin. The uncompromising Baltin had long been viewed as an obstacle to
a resolution of the Black Sea Fleet dispute. Russian military sources
have still not confirmed his dismissal. -- Scott Parrish

KOVALEV QUITS HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION. Human rights activist Sergei
Kovalev resigned on 23 January from his post as head of the presidential
Human Rights Commission, Russian media reported. Kovalev also said he
has decided to leave the Presidential Council. Another prominent
reformer, Yegor Gaidar, stepped down from the council, a consultative
body, on 22 January. In an open letter to President Yeltsin, Kovalev
said he was resigning his posts because of Yeltsin's preference for
using forceful methods to solve political problems, the increasing
secrecy surrounding the state apparatus, neglect of public opinion, and
personnel changes. The parliament stripped Kovalev of the post of human
rights commissioner in March for his outspoken opposition to the
government's policy in Chechnya, and he has effectively been ignored by
Yeltsin. -- Penny Morvant

DUMA TAKES A HAND IN ST. PETERSBURG PROFESSORS' DISPUTE. The Duma on 23
January recommended that the government take urgent measures to ensure
that teachers at higher education establishments in St. Petersburg and
elsewhere are paid their wages, ITAR-TASS reported. About 15 union
representatives went on hunger strike in Russia's second city on 22
January to press for payment of the government's 200 billion ruble ($43
million) debt to local colleges. In a resolution on wage arrears, the
Duma instructed the Russian Federation Accounting Chamber to run a
special check on the disbursement of funds to higher education
establishments under the 1995 budget. Newly appointed Deputy Prime
Minister Vladimir Kinelev claimed that in 1995 the government had been
better at fulfilling its budget obligations to the education sector than
in 1994 but acknowledged that some areas had been affected by delays in
January payments. -- Penny Morvant

DID ORT CENSOR "VZGLYAD"? Executives at Russian Public TV (ORT) "have
not forgotten Soviet propaganda methods," Segodnya reported on 23
January. The paper reported that last week's edition of Aleksandr
Lyubimov's news program "Vzglyad" (View) was broadcast on Channel 1 to
the Far East in its entirety, but portions about the shelling of
Pervomaiskoe were removed from broadcasts west of the Urals. Lyubimov is
also a vice president of the VID television company which produces
"Vzglyad." He told Segodnya that under ORT's contract with VID, the
network does not have the right to alter VID programs without prior
agreement. "Vzglyad" was a groundbreaking news program during the
Gorbachev era, launching young journalists like Lyubimov and the late
Vladislav Listev to national fame. According to Segodnya, during the
Soviet period authorities routinely broadcast a "sharp" version of the
show in the Far East but toned it down for European parts of the Soviet
Union. -- Laura Belin

RESHUFFLE OF REGIONAL ADMINISTRATIONS CONTINUES. On 22 January,
President Boris Yeltsin dismissed the administration heads of Chita,
Ivanovo, and Kaluga oblasts, Russian media reported. The day before,
Yeltsin had removed his representative in Krasnodar Krai, Vasilii
Teterin, the sixth presidential envoy to be fired in the post-election
reshuffle of regional officials. The dismissal of governors will leave
the regions concerned with only one representative in the Federation
Council instead of two for the rest of the year. By law, the
parliament's upper house is composed of both executive and legislative
heads from every region, but Yeltsin has barred gubernatorial elections
from taking place before December 1996. -- Anna Paretskaya

YELTSIN URGES COUNCIL OF EUROPE TO ADMIT RUSSIA. President Yeltsin urged
the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to approve Russia's
application for membership on 23 January, Russian and Western agencies
reported. The assembly is scheduled to vote on the issue on 25 January,
and recent developments in Chechnya have again cast doubt on whether
Russia's application for membership in the 38-member organization,
pending since 1992, will finally be approved. Yeltsin argued that a
rejection of the Russian application would strike a blow against
democracy in Russia, and would be interpreted by many as indirect
support for "those who are trying to resolve the Chechen conflict
through terrorist methods." -- Scott Parrish

HEAD OF NATO TROOPS VISITS MOSCOW. General George Joulwan, NATO's
Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, met with Russian Defense Minister
Pavel Grachev in Moscow on 23 January, Western agencies reported. He was
quoted as praising the Russian forces who are taking part in the Bosnian
peace implementation operation, saying they were "well-trained, well-
equipped, well-led, and well-motivated." Grachev express concern at the
tension between Bosnian Croats and Muslims in the region where his
troops are stationed. "If we are dragged into a minor shootout," he told
Joulwan, "things could escalate." -- Doug Clarke

DEFENSE COMMITTEE GETS NEW CHAIRMAN. President Yeltsin dismissed Viktor
Glukhikh as chairman of the Russian State Committee for the Defense
Industry (Roskomoboronprom) on 23 January and replaced him with Zinovii
Pak, Interfax reported. Glukhikh had headed the committee since October
1992. Pak, 56, was the director of the Soyuz defense enterprise in
Lyuberets, near Moscow, according to Ekho Moskvy on 23 January. The same
source reported that the average salary in defense plants in December
was only 414,000 rubles ($90) a month, compared to 616,000 ($135) for
the industrial sector as a whole. -- Doug Clarke

CHEMICAL WEAPONS DESTRUCTION FACILITY TO BE BUILT. Work on a facility to
destroy chemical weapons will begin this fall in the village of Gornyi
(Saratov Oblast), NTV reported on 22 January. The plant, which will
destroy lewisite stored in steel tanks at a Gornyi arsenal, is scheduled
to become operational in 1997, although the Duma has yet to appropriate
financing for it. In 1989 Russia built a facility in Chapaevsk (Samara
Oblast) to destroy chemical weapons, but the plant never went into
operation because residents complained it was too close to the city.
Current plans call for Russia's 40,000 tons of chemical weapons to be
destroyed at facilities built near the seven arsenals in which they are
stored. -- Scott Parrish and Doug Clarke

PRODUCTION OF OIL AND GAS DECLINED IN 1995. Russia produced 307 million
metric tons of crude oil in 1995, a 2.9% drop compared to 1994, Interfax
reported on 23 January, citing the State Statistics Committee. In 1994
the extraction of oil and gas condensate declined 10% over 1993. The
production of crude oil alone fell by 3.8% and totaled 298 million tons.
The oil output of joint-stock companies with foreign participation
climbed by 29% to 13.5 million tons. In 1995 Russia's production of
natural gas fell by 2% from 1994 to 570 billion cubic meters, of which
98% was produced by Gazprom. -- Natalia Gurushina

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

NIYAZOV VISITS TEHRAN . . . Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov and his
Iranian counterpart, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, signed accords on
oil, gas, agriculture, the construction of roads and a joint dam on the
Hari River, the linking of both countries' power networks, and the
channeling of water to the Turkmen city of Merv, IRNA reported on 23
January. In a statement aimed at Azerbaijan, the two leaders expressed
their concern at the "unilateral and uncontrolled exploitation of the
Caspian Sea." -- Lowell Bezanis

. . . AND TALKS WITH TAJIK OPPOSITION LEADER. While in Tehran, Niyazov
met with Tajik opposition leader Said Abdullah Nuri, RFE/RL reported the
same day. He informed Nuri that the CIS summit in Moscow had decided to
extend the mandate of the Russian-led CIS peacekeepers in Tajikistan,
and called on Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov to aggressively pursue a
negotiated peace settlement. The next round of inter-Tajik talks will
resume on 26 January in Ashgabat. -- Lowell Bezanis

ENERGY CRISIS IN ALMATY. Fuel shortages have caused suspensions of hot
water and electricity to many residential areas of Almaty, according to
a 17 January Interfax report. A city administration official was quoted
as saying that fuel reserves at power plants will last about three to
four days. Fuel shortages have severely curtailed the refueling of
flights arriving at Almaty, although foreign airlines that have already
paid for fuel are not affected. -- Bhavna Dave

KYRGYZ NEWSPAPER CLOSES. The Kyrgyz newspaper Stolitsa, which began
publishing in November 1995, will close down, according to the paper's
editor-in-chief, Kuban Mambetaliev. The independent paper put out only
thirteen editions but in that short time acquired a reputation as an
opposition voice. Mambetaliev wrote in the 19 January edition of
Stolitsa, "An epoch of criticizing is gone, now we need analysis of
cause and effect." The closure of Stolitsa will leave only one truly
independent newspaper in the country, Res Publica. -- 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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