Life is what happens to us while we're making other plans. - John Lennon
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 21, Part I, 30 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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
RUSSIAN PRIEST ABDUCTED IN CHECHNYA. The deacon of a Russian Orthodox
church in Grozny was abducted on 29 January by Chechen militants loyal
to President Dzhokhar Dudaev, Russian media reported. Meanwhile, talks
continued on conditions for the release of 29 Russian power plant
workers abducted in Grozny on 16 January and 17 Novosibirsk police
officers captured by Salman Raduev's men in Pervomaiskoe. The Chechen
side has offered to exchange the police officers for their own men who
were taken prisoner during the storming of Pervomaiskoe, and on 30
January they released 5 of the captive policemen who were lightly
wounded. A spokesman for the Russian Interior Ministry claimed that only
Russian federal authorities--not the Dagestani intermediaries currently
conducting the talks--have the authority to release Raduev's guerrillas.
-- Liz Fuller
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

RUSSIA

NEMTSOV ASKS YELTSIN TO WITHDRAW TROOPS FROM CHECHNYA . . . Nizhnii
Novgorod Governor Boris Nemtsov gave President Yeltsin a petition signed
by one million residents of his region demanding that the war in
Chechnya be ended and Russian troops be withdrawn, Russian media
reported on 29 January. Nemtsov told Radio Rossii that the vast number
of signatures, collected in only a few weeks, "speaks for itself." He
added that Yeltsin is being cut off from information that his advisers
deem to be not good for him. Nemtsov said he will support Yeltsin's re-
election if the president changes his Chechnya policy. -- Laura Belin

. . . BUT ROKHLIN DISAGREES. Duma Defense Committee Chairman Lev
Rokhlin, who was elected to the Duma on the pro-government Our Home Is
Russia ticket, said recalling troops from Chechnya now would only allow
Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev to import more weapons, ITAR-TASS
reported on 29 January. He added, "Dudaev clearly is not satisfied with
the territory of Chechnya itself" and will attack neighboring republics
of the Russian Federation if "decisive measures" are not taken to
destroy his armed formations. Lt. Gen. Rokhlin led troops during the
storming of Grozny in the early weeks of the fighting but refused to
accept a medal for his efforts. -- Laura Belin

NATIONAL-SOCIALIST TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT. Aleksandr Barkashov, the leader
of the national-socialist party Russian National Unity (RNE), announced
that he will seek the presidency, Ekho Moskvy reported on 29 January. An
open admirer of Adolf Hitler, Barkashov left the nationalist movement
Pamyat in 1990 to form the RNE. At an October 1995 party conference, he
announced that he would not run for the Duma because he considered it
beneath his dignity, NTV reported on 15 October. -- Laura Belin

AGRARIANS TO BACK COMMUNIST PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE. The Agrarian Party
will back Communist candidate Gennadii Zyuganov in the presidential
elections, party leader Mikhail Lapshin announced on 29 January, Reuters
reported. Now the three leftist blocs that competed in the Duma
elections against the Communist Party but did not clear the 5% barrier
have lined up behind the victorious party. In the pro-reform camp,
Republican Party leader Ella Pamfilova has called for a forum of
"democratic and centrist" parties to support a common candidate, but
none of the major players have supported her proposal, ITAR-TASS
reported. -- Robert Orttung

33 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN GROUPS REGISTERED. On 29 January, the Central
Electoral Commission authorized another five groups to begin collecting
the 1 million signatures necessary to put forward a candidate in the
presidential election. There are now 33 groups, including six that
support President Boris Yeltsin, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. Among
the latest crop of contenders is National Republican Party leader
Nikolai Lysenko, whose extreme nationalist advertisements attracted lots
of publicity but few votes (0.48%) in the Duma campaign. The
parliamentary leader of Our Home Is Russia, Sergei Belyaev, announced on
29 January that the bloc, created initially to support Prime Minister
Viktor Chernomyrdin, would now devote itself to electing Yeltsin, NTV
reported. -- Robert Orttung

YELTSIN SEEKS STRONGER REGIONAL TIES. On 30 January, President Boris
Yeltsin signed agreements with the governors of Krasnodar Krai and
Orenburg Oblast on the division of powers with federal authorities,
ITAR-TASS reported the same day. This follows similar agreements signed
on 12 January with Sverdlovsk and Kaliningrad Oblasts. The same day,
Yeltsin instructed Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin to review the work
of regional administrators by the end of February and "take serious
steps, including dismissal" of those who do not carry out presidential
decrees. Yeltsin said he now requires weekly reports from each region on
the fulfillment of his orders. These steps are mainly aimed at dealing
with the immediate problem of wage arrears. -- Peter Rutland

FIRED ADMINISTRATIVE HEAD OF CHITA OBLAST COMPLAINS. Boris Ivanov, who
was removed from the top executive post in Chita Oblast on 22 January,
ostensibly "at his own request," claims he was forced to leave office,
Radio Rossii reported on 29 January. Ivanov said he was sacked because
of the disappointing Duma election results in the oblast: the Communist
Party took 21.6% of the vote in Chita, the Liberal Democratic Party of
Russia won 20.6%, and the pro-government Our Home Is Russia just 4.3%.
Ivanov also said the federal government has unfairly blamed "him and him
alone" for the economic troubles of the eastern Baikal region. -- Laura
Belin

DUMA MAY NOT RATIFY START II TREATY. Leading figures in the Duma have
responded coolly to President Yeltsin's call for a quick ratification of
the START II treaty (see OMRI Daily Digest, 29 January 1995), Russian
and Western agencies reported on 29 January. Yabloko leader Grigorii
Yavlinskii said the treaty should be ratified because Russia cannot
afford to maintain a large nuclear arsenal. However, the leaders of the
Communist Party (KPRF), the Popular Power faction, and the Liberal
Democratic Party (LDPR) all expressed serious reservations about the
treaty. Since those three groups hold 237 of the Duma's 450 seats, the
prospects of the treaty garnering the majority support necessary for
ratification seem slim. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov
suggested that he would not support the ratification of START II as long
as NATO expansion remains a possibility--a view supported by other
opposition deputies. -- Scott Parrish

U.S. WORRIES ABOUT NUCLEAR DEAL WITH RUSSIA. There is concern in
Washington that Russia is not living up to the terms of a 1992 deal to
sell weapons-grade uranium to the United States, The New York Times
reported on 29 January. Under the terms of the agreement, Russia is to
take the enriched uranium out of dismantled nuclear weapons. The uranium
is then diluted from 90% U235 to 4% U235 so that it can be used as fuel
in nuclear powerplant reactors. But this dilution process is carried out
in Russia and critics worry the U.S. does not have adequate inspection
rights. Russia has already shipped the equivalent of six metric tons of
enriched uranium to the U.S. in diluted form, but some have speculated
that the original uranium did not come from dismantled weapons warheads
but was either from a stockpile or from continued production. -- Doug
Clarke

CHERNOMYRDIN-GORE COMMISSION MEETS. Prime Minster Viktor Chernomyrdin
opened the sixth session of the Russo-U.S. commission on economic and
technical cooperation in Washington on 29 January, Russian and Western
agencies reported. Chernomyrdin sought to reassure U.S. officials, and
the IMF which is currently negotiating a $9 billion three-year extended
facility loan with Russia, of his government's continued commitment to
market-oriented economic reform. Russian officials said that the
commission session will produce several new bilateral agreements,
including one on increasing the number of U.S. commercial satellites
that can be launched by Russian boosters and another one on launching
joint exploration of the Timano-Pechora oil field in northern Russia. --
Scott Parrish

PRIMAKOV ON TAJIK CONFLICT. Returning from a three-day visit to
Tajikistan and Uzbekistan (see OMRI Daily Digest, 29 January 1995), his
first foreign trip since his appointment, Foreign Minister Yevgenii
Primakov told journalists that Russia will not withdraw its troops from
Tajikistan soon, Russian and Western agencies reported on 29 January.
While pledging support for the latest round of inter-Tajik talks,
Primakov warned that if Russian forces left the republic "a wave of
destabilization could sweep across all Central Asia," which he described
as the strategic "underbelly" of Russia. Rossiiskaya gazeta emphasized
that Primakov's trip, which will be followed by a visit to Kiev on 31
January, demonstrates that the CIS is a top priority for the new foreign
minister. -- Scott Parrish

OVERDUE WAGES TOTAL 13.4 TRILLION RUBLES. Industrial and public sector
workers were owed 13.4 trillion rubles ($2.8 billion) on 1 January in
late wages, an increase of 219% in comparison with the previous year,
Izvestiya reported on 30 January. The average industrial worker is owed
529,000 rubles ($113), equal to 78% of their monthy salary. A third of
the January wage arrears (4.1 trillion rubles) are at least two months
overdue. The largest amounts are owed in Tyumen Oblast (1.5 trillion
rubles); Kemerovo Oblast (685 billion); Krasnoyarsk Krai (616 billion);
and Bashkortostan (534 billion). Wage arrears have provoked several
labor disputes. ITAR-TASS reported on 29 January that more than 4,500
educational establishments would take part in strike action scheduled to
begin today. -- Penny Morvant

CRIMINAL PROCEEDINGS RESTARTED AGAINST STANKEVICH. The Moscow
Procurator's Office has resumed criminal proceedings against former
State Duma deputy Sergei Stankevich, Russian media reported on 29
January. Criminal proceedings have also been restarted against MMM
investment fund head Sergei Mavrodi (see OMRI Daily Digest, 16 January
1996). Stankevich, formerly a political adviser to President Yeltsin,
was accused of accepting a bribe of $10,000 for helping to arrange a
concert of Russian classical music on Red Square in 1992, but the
criminal proceedings were suspended because of his parliamentary
immunity. -- Penny Morvant

HOUSING CONSTRUCTION EXPANDS IN 1995. In 1995, Russia's housing
construction totaled 49 million square meters (a 25% increase over the
38.5 million square meters built in 1994), Russian agencies reported on
26 January, citing Construction Minister Yefim Basin. Of this amount, 5
million square meters were built in Moscow and the Moscow region.
Housing construction expanded despite the fact that the industry is owed
some 8 trillion rubles ($1.7 billion) from the federal budget. Federal
spending now accounts for only a small proportion of housing
construction, having given way to bank credits, foreign investment, and
spending by local authorities. -- Natalia Gurushina

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

GEORGIAN ECONOMY MINISTER ON ACHIEVEMENTS AND ENERGY CRISIS. Georgia's
engineering, metallurgical, light, and chemical industries all posted
higher than expected production figures for 1995, bringing five years of
declining industrial output to an end, Russian media quoted Georgian
Economy Minister Vladimer Papava as saying on 28 January. Papava also
said 1995 saw achievements in financial stabilization and the successful
introduction of monetary reform. The minister described last year's
annual inflation figure of 60% as "rather promising". At the same time
he warned that a "serious shortage of energy supplies" could overshadow
the country's economic achievements. -- Irakli Tsereteli

TAJIK PEACE TALKS RESUME IN ASHGABAT. The fifth round of peace talks
between the Tajik government and the opposition began again in the
Turkmen capital Ashgabat on 29 January, Western media reported. The
talks had broken down almost immediately after they began in December.
During his 28 January visit to Tajikistan, Russian Foreign Minister
Yevgenii Primakov urged the Tajik government to come to an agreement
with the opposition. The Tajik government has replaced Deputy Prime
Minister Makhmadsaid Ubadollayev with Foreign Minister Talbak Nazarov as
the chief negotiator at the talks. Ubadollayev was alleged to be a
"hardliner." A spokesman for the opposition, Ali Akbar Turajonzoda, said
the personnel change does not mark a change in the government's
position. -- 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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