If there is technological advance without social advance, there is, almost automatically, an increase in human misery. - Michael Harrington
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 27, Part I, 07 February 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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
DUDAEV THREATENS WESTERN EUROPE. Speaking at a press conference in the
Chechen village of Roshni-Chu during the night of 56 February, President
Dzhokhar Dudaev asserted that he no longers plans to wage war against
Russia, but intends to attack Western Europe, which he accused of
provoking the war, Radio Rossii reported. Dudaev further accused the
OSCE mission in Chechnya of inciting hostilities and claimed that the
U.S. government had given Moscow $6.5 billion to help finance the war--a
claim that the U.S. Embassy in Moscow swiftly denied. In Grozny,
thousands of Dudaev supporters demonstrated for the third consecutive
day to demand the withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya. NTV
reported on 6 February that Dudaev's chief of staff, Aslan Maskhadov,
has issued orders to his field commanders not to hold any further talks
with the pro-Moscow government of Doku Zavgaev. -- Liz Fuller
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

RUSSIA

COMMUNISTS PROMISE NEW CONSTITUTION IF THEY WIN PRESIDENCY. A new
constitution is atop the agenda if a communist candidate wins the
presidential elections, State Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev told
Rossiiskaya gazeta on 6 February. Seleznev suggested that the proposed
new constitution would eliminate the presidency and restore the
supremacy of parliament. -- Penny Morvant

CHERNOMYRDIN BREAKS VACATION. A government spokesman said on 6 February
that Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, on vacation in the Black Sea
resort of Sochi, would return to Moscow on 7 February for two days of
meetings, Russian media reported. Chernomyrdin will attend a meeting of
the Security Council and meet a Danish government delegation.
Chernomyrdin's departure on vacation at the weekend prompted speculation
in the press that he was about to be sacked, but he has denied the
rumors. -- Penny Morvant

CONSTITUTIONAL COURT STARTS HEARINGS ON DEPUTIES' IMMUNITY. The
Constitutional Court began hearings 6 February on President Boris
Yeltsin's request to test the law on Duma deputies' immunity status,
Russian media reported. The constitution says members of the parliament
cannot be arrested, or subjected to investigation except when detained
at the scene of a crime; they also cannot be subjected to body searches.
Yeltsin objected to the widening of the immunity limits, which,
according to the law, covers a deputy's housing, luggage, transport,
correspondence and documents, and excuses a deputy from testifying in
court. The Duma representative to the court, Sergei Baburin, defended
the existing norms of parliamentary immunity as necessary to preserve
"the deputy's freedom of political action," and protection from possible
political manipulation of the legal system. The court is expected to
announce its verdict this month. -- Anna Paretskaya

FEDERATION COUNCIL REJECTS LAW ON SUBSISTENCE MINIMUM. The Federation
Council rejected the draft law on the subsistence minimum on 6 February,
Russian media reported. Under the law, which Yeltsin has rejected on two
occasions, benefits would be paid to people whose income is below the
subsistence minimum. Last year, an average of 37 million Russians lived
below the poverty line, which was set in December at 327,000 rubles
($69) a month. The upper house acknowledged that the law is essential
but was concerned that it would require 30 to 60 trillion rubles not
provided for in the 1996 budget. St. Petersburg Mayor Anatolii Sobchak
said that if the law was passed in its current form it would share the
fate of the law on veterans, which has never been implemented because of
financial constraints. -- Penny Morvant

LAWS STALL IN FEDERATION COUNCIL. At its meeting on 7 February the
Federation Council also failed to overcome President Boris Yeltsin's
veto on four other laws which had previously passed both parliamentary
chambers. The laws pertained to financial support for the northern
regions, the regulation of public meetings, the governmental structure
of regional subjects, and the securities market. The law regulating the
securities market, which is urgently needed, has been en route through
the legislature since 1994. -- Peter Rutland

REMAINING PRESIDENTIAL COUNCIL MEMBERS ENDORSE YELTSIN. Several members
of the advisory Presidential Council, including Andranik Migranyan,
Sergei Karaganov, and Emil Pain, expressed their continued support for
President Boris Yeltsin in an open letter published in Izvestiya on 7
February. The letter was written in response to the recent resignations
of several members of the council, including human rights advocate
Sergei Kovalev and Izvestiya commentator Otto Latsis. The authors argued
that Yeltsin remains the "main bulwark of democracy in Russia." They
contended that in the face of "a rising threat of Bolshevik
restoration," supporting Yeltsin was the "only reasonable course of
political action." The authors did, however, express strong disagreement
with Yeltsin's Chechnya policy, and urged the president to take
immediate steps to reach a peaceful settlement of the conflict there. --
Scott Parrish

FOREIGN MINISTRY SLAMS AMBASSADOR TO VATICAN. Foreign Ministry spokesman
Grigorii Karasin harshly criticized the Ambassador to the Vatican,
Vyacheslav Kostikov, on 6 February for his comments in a 4 February
interview with NTV, Russian and Western agencies reported. Kostikov, who
served as President Yeltsin's press secretary until December 1994, gave
the interview in connection with the upcoming release of his memoirs,
excerpts from which have already been published in Argumenty i fakty. In
the interview, Kostikov painted a negative portrait of Yeltsin as power-
hungry and lacking a "democratic ideology of his own," adding that
Yeltsin's inner circle of advisors conducted a "constant, exhausting
struggle" for influence over the president. Karasin said that Kostikov's
comments were "a violation of moral and professional rules and norms"
since it is "unacceptable for an ambassador to make negative comments
about the leadership of his own country." -- Scott Parrish

ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVIST ARRESTED FOR SPYING. Aleksandr Nikitin, a Russian
employee of the Norwegian-based environmental group Bellona, was
arrested by the Federal Security Service in St. Petersburg on charges of
espionage, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 February. In a press release from
Oslo, Bellona described the arrest of Nikitin, a nuclear expert who used
to serve in the Northern Fleet, as a "serious blow against democracy and
environmental efforts in Russia," according to Western agency reports.
Bellona, which was founded in 1986, specializes in charting radioactive
contamination of the Kola peninsula. The organization has been subject
of a criminal investigation since the release of a report in October on
the appalling state of a nuclear waste dump used by the Northern Fleet
that the Russian authorities claim revealed state secrets. -- Penny
Morvant

IRAN BEGINS PAYING FOR BUSHEHR REACTOR. Grigorii Kaurov, a spokesman for
the Russian Ministry of Nuclear Energy, told journalists on 7 February
that Iran had begun making payments for the completion of the
controversial Bushehr nuclear power station, Russian and Western
agencies reported. Kaurov said that under the terms of the estimated
$800 million Russo-Iranian contract that went into effect on 12 January,
the first VVER-1000 reactor bloc on the site will be completed by 2000.
Russian technicians continue to prepare the site for full-scale
construction, which Kaurov predicted would begin no sooner than May. The
possible construction of three other reactors at the site has been
discussed with Iran, he said, but has not yet been finalized. Kaurov
also noted that Iranian specialists for the plant will be trained at
Novovoronezh power station. -- Scott Parrish

BALTIN GLAD TO BE RELIEVED OF COMMAND. Admiral Eduard Baltin, the former
commander of the Black Sea Fleet, told Russian media on 5 February that
he was "deeply grateful to the Russian president for relieving me of the
burden that rested on my shoulders." Baltin said that the could not hand
over part of the fleet to Ukraine, as he had been ordered to, because it
represented "not only history but also a part of Russia." He said that
he therefore had been dismissed because of "pangs of conscience." Baltin
turned over command of the fleet to his deputy, Vice Admiral Gennadii
Suchkov, on 5 February. -- Doug Clarke

RUSSIA AND CHINA COMPLETE SU-27 DEAL. Russia and China have concluded a
secret agreement which allows completion of the delayed sale of 72 SU-27
fighters to China, The New York Times reported on 7 February. One-third
of the planes had been delivered under a 1992 deal, but further
deliveries stalled because of Russian complaints about the barter goods
China was using to cover two-thirds of the estimated $1 billion purchase
price. The new agreement settled the payment terms, clearing the way not
only for delivery of the remaining planes, but also for a contract
allowing China to produce the SU-27 under license, (see OMRI Daily
Digest 5 February 1996). -- Scott Parrish

CONTROVERSY OVER NORILSK NICKEL INTENSIFIES. The Duma set up a
commission on 2 February to investigate the privatization of Norilsk
Nickel, and on 5 February Procurator General Yurii Skuratov announced
that he was opening an investigation, ITAR-TASS reported the same day.
In November Oneksimbank won control of the state's 38% stake in the firm
in return for a $170 million loan, in an auction which the bank itself
organized. Norilsk Director Anatolii Filatov has refused to allow the
bank to appoint any new directors, and successfully went to court to
block a bank request to call an emergency shareholders' meeting on 2
February. Norilsk Nickel has annual sales of $1.2 billion, and produces
90% of Russia's nickel and cobalt, 75% of its copper, and all its
platinum. Due to chronic wage arrears the firm's trade unions are
supporting Oneksimbank in its effort to take over the firm. Krasnoyarsk
Krai governor Valerii Zubov, who sits on the Norilsk board of directors,
is taking a neutral position in the dispute, according to Russian
Television on 23 January. -- Peter Rutland

POSSIBLE REVISIONS TO SHARES-FOR-LOANS SCHEME. In the wake of criticism
of the results of the 1995 loans-for-shares auctions, the government is
considering repaying the loans and repossessing some of the shares,
Russian media reported on 3 February, although it is not clear where the
money for such an operation would come from. If the loans-for-shares
auctions are restarted, the rules will probably be altered. Likely
changes include barring the State Property Committee's agent banks from
participating, and allowing bidders to pay part of the required deposit
with treasury bills. -- Natalia Gurushina

DEFENSE CONVERSION HOPES IN SVERDLOVSK . . . Overall production at
defense plants in Russia has fallen by 44% over the past two years,
radio Ekho Moskvy reported on 6 February. Conversion programs have been
hindered by a shortage of investment for retooling. However, the special
agreement signed by Sverdlovsk Oblast with the federal government (see
OMRI Daily Digest 12 January 1996) allows the oblast to divert federal
tax revenues directly into conversion projects at local defense plants.
Thus the Mias rocket design center in Sverdlovsk Oblast is building a
line for the production of city trams, formerly imported from
Czechoslovakia, Russian Television reported on 6 February. -- Peter
Rutland

. . . BUT ST. PETERSBURG ROCKET PLANT IN TROUBLE. Like many defense
plants, St. Petersburg's Severnyi Zavod is on the brink of financial
collapse, NTV reported on 5 February. The plant produces Patriot-style
surface to air missiles, but has been reduced to making toboggans and
other consumer goods. The last purchase order from the Russian
government was for 62 rockets, in 1994. They managed to sell 120 S300
missiles to China last year, but had to accept payment in barter goods
(such as lighters, thermoses, and china dogs) which they gave out as
wages. Two local banks that accepted Severnyi promissory notes, Kredit
Petersburg and Metal Invest, have gone bankrupt. -- Peter Rutland

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

NIYAZOV VISITS TURKEY. The Turkish papers Cumhuriyet and Zaman reported
on 6 February that Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov is in Turkey for
discussion of the gas pipeline project running through Iran and Turkey
to Europe. Confusingly, some international agencies were still reporting
that Niyazov will not visit Turkey until next week. Rumors are
circulating in Ashgabat that Niyazov's health is poor and that he may be
going to Turkey for medical treatment. -- Lowell Bezanis

UN GROUP ARRIVES IN UZBEKISTAN. A delegation to evaluate Uzbekistan's
human rights record arrived in Tashkent on 5 February, Uzbek television
reported, as noted by the BBC. Under the auspices of the UN Development
Program, the group will meet with various government officials, NGO's,
and political party leaders. They are also scheduled to meet with
several opposition figures whose parties are currently not registered
with the government. -- Roger Kangas

FBI TO TRAIN KAZAKHSTANI OFFICIALS TO FIGHT CRIME. Following a meeting
between Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev and FBI Director
Louis Freeh at the World Economic Forum in Davos, the FBI promised to
help Kazakhstan train its law enforcement agents to fight crime, Western
media reported on 6 February. This meeting was a follow-up to an
agreement reached between the two countries in March to cooperate to
combat nuclear weapons smuggling, drug trafficking, and other organized
and financial crimes. -- Bhavna Dave

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Pete Baumgartner

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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