When two people communicate, they each can be enriched - and unlike traditional resources, the more you share the more you have. - U.S. Vice President Al Gore
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 31, Part I, 13 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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
NATIONALIST LEADER ATTACKED IN MOSCOW. The deputy leader of Vladimir
Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party's parliamentary faction,
Aleksandr Vengerovskii, was shot by two unidentified assailants while
walking near his home on 12 February. He received a superficial knee
wound and was hospitalized, ITAR-TASS reported. The police are currently
investigating Vengerovskii's business dealings, which have provoked
threats in the past. Vengerovskii heads the Duma's subcommittee on
foreign intelligence, which is planing to hold hearings on the secret
service's ability to prevent foreign mercenaries from entering Chechnya.
Four deputies have been murdered since the 1993 Duma elections. --
Robert Orttung
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

RUSSIA

TULEEV READY TO DROP PRESIDENTIAL BID. Kemerovo Oblast legislature
chairman Aman Tuleev is prepared to end his presidential campaign,
Rossiiskie vesti reported on 13 February. The pro-government paper
described his decision as the "best gift [Communist Party leader]
Gennadii Zyuganov could imagine," since Tuleev was Zyuganov's "only real
competitor from within the Communist Party." Rossiiskie vesti also
contended that Zyuganov is planning to introduce constitutional changes
that would shift power from the presidency to the Duma to reward
colleagues who have nominated him as the single presidential candidate
from the left bloc. There have also been rumors that Zyuganov was
prepared to offer Tuleev the post of prime minister. -- Robert Orttung

KREMLIN LOCKS OUT NTV. President Boris Yeltsin's press service has
banned NTV from the Kremlin, the station reported on 12 February. NTV
said no reason was given for the ban but speculated that it was because
the station had interviewed Vyacheslav Kostikov, a former presidential
press secretary and current ambassador to the Vatican, who has been very
critical of Yeltsin. NTV accused the Kremlin of violating the law on the
media by preventing the station from reporting the news. NTV came under
state pressure in December 1994 when its reporting from Chechnya
contradicted the official version of events and in July 1995 when the
procurator-general opened a case against the satirical puppet show
"Kukly." -- Robert Orttung

ST. PETERSBURG LOBBY GROUP CREATED IN DUMA. Duma deputies elected from
St. Petersburg and Leningrad Oblast have set up a non-partisan group
Neva Initiative (Nevskaya initsiativa) to lobby for the interests of
their region, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 February. So far, only eight of
the 23 deputies from the region have agreed to join the group, which
thus falls short of the 35 required to register as an official
parliamentary faction. -- Anna Paretskaya

NATIONALITIES MINISTRY IDENTIFIES DEPRESSED REGIONS. The Nationalities
Ministry has classified Dagestan, Kalmykiya, Chuvashiya, and Kostroma
and Ivanovo Oblasts as "depressed" regions, Rabochaya tribuna reported
on 13 February. The ministry now plans to submit a draft program of
financial support for those areas to the Federation Council. According
to Rabochaya tribuna, even regions that are doing relatively well are
ready to declare themselves depressed in the hopes of obtaining extra
money from the federal budget. -- Anna Paretskaya

RUSSIA AND U.S. SPAR OVER SANCTIONS AGAINST BOSNIAN SERBS. Disagreement
between the United States and Russia in the UN Security Council has
delayed the suspension of economic sanctions against the Bosnian Serbs
as provided for by the Dayton agreement, Russian and Western agencies
reported on 12 February. The two countries disagree over whether a
letter from NATO Secretary General Javier Solana, stating that Bosnian
Serb forces have withdrawn from areas slated to be handed over to the
Bosnian government, is sufficient to trigger suspension of the
sanctions. Russian UN delegate Sergei Lavrov told ITAR-TASS that the
letter is sufficient and sanctions should now be suspended, but an
American official told AFP that sanctions will be suspended only after
the "zones of separation" provided for by the Dayton agreement have been
created. -- Scott Parrish

FSB: SMUGGLED PLUTONIUM WAS FROM RUSSIA. German government spokesman
Petr Haussman said on 12 February that Bonn has received a letter from
the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) that clears Germany's BND
intelligence service of staging a 1994 operation to smuggle plutonium
into Germany. Haussman said the letter, a request for legal aid, shows
that the plutonium seized at Munich airport in August 1994 was stolen
from a research reactor at Obninsk, southwest of Moscow, Reuters
reported. At the time, the FSB denied that the radioactive contraband
was Russian in origin and suggested that the BND had staged the
operation to justify its existence. According to Haussman, the letter
says Justinian Torres, one of three men seized by police in the Munich
incident, acquired a sample of plutonium in June, whereas the BND
undercover agent reported the offer only at the beginning of July--a
sequence of events that indicated that the BND had not initiated the
deal. According to the German daily Bild, the Russian authorities are
investigating three Russians believed to have helped the Colombian
Torres obtain the plutonium. -- Doug Clarke and Penny Morvant

JUPPE ENDORSES YELTSIN. On the eve of a visit to Russia, French Prime
Minister Alain Juppe expressed support for Russian President Yeltsin's
reelection in a 13 February interview with Izvestiya. Juppe said he
hoped that the upcoming presidential campaign would "give credit to the
reforms accomplished by President Yeltsin." Juppe termed the eastward
expansion of NATO a "natural process," but added that Russia and NATO
could conclude a special accord to regulate their relationship. On 12
February, Juppe met with German Chancellor Helmut Kohl in Bonn, where
the two leaders announced their continued support for Russian political
and economic reforms. While the United States has cooled toward Yeltsin
in recent months, both Germany and France have continued to offer open
support, a stance criticized by media in both countries. -- Scott
Parrish

AIR FORCE CHIEF SAYS MILITARY AVIATION IN CRITICAL STATE. General Petr
Deinekin, the commander-in-chief of the Russian Air Force, told the
service's military council that military aviation is in a critical
state, NTV reported on 11 February. Deinekin pointed out that modern,
fourth-generation aircraft made up just 15% of the air force fleet. He
said that the service needed to acquire 250-300 new planes each year to
maintain its combat effectiveness but added that not a single new
aircraft was purchased last year. Financial problems have prevented the
service from buying the aviation fuel it needs with the result that
"only one-third of the pilots are capable of doing their job properly,"
he said, adding: "The rest simply don't fly." -- Doug Clarke

UNITY OF PROCURACY AT RISK. Addressing the collegium of the Buryat
procuracy in Ulan-Ude on 12 February, Russian Procurator-General Yurii
Skuratov called for the retention of the centralized system of public
prosecutors, saying it guaranteed the effectiveness and cohesion of the
country's legal system, ITAR-TASS reported. He said he was alarmed by
current difficulties in appointing procurators in Russia's regions,
noting that 40 such appointments are due to be made this year. Current
practice is to give oblsat authorities the right to confirm the
appointment of regional procurators. Skuratov said this results in long-
drawn-out conflicts in regions where heads of the executive and
legislative branches are at odds with one another. He criticized
proposals to extend the confirmation right down to raion level. -- Penny
Morvant

CORRUPTION CRACKDOWN IN STAVROPOL. On 11 February, ITAR-TASS quoted
Kremlin chief of staff Nikolai Yegorov as saying, "We are going to take
steps against enterprise leaders, including those in joint-stock
companies with state ownership, who have used money released to them to
buy Mercedes and build houses." Later in the day the agency reported
that Valentin Poltorak, former director of the Signal firm in Stavropol,
had been arrested for corruption--including buying cars and having a
house built for himself. He was also accused of leasing and selling off
Signal's assets to firms run by his associates (including his son) at
low cost. The previous day, ITAR-TASS reported that Col. Valerii
Zimarev, head of the Stavropol MVD's financial department, had been
arrested for misplacing 2 billion rubles ($420,000) intended for wages
owed to police. Meanwhile, NTV reported on 9 February that Yevgenii
Bychkov, the head of the Russian Federation Committee on Precious Metals
(Roskomdragmet), is also under investigation for corruption. -- Peter
Rutland

COAL INDUSTRY PRIVATIZATION ON HOLD. On 10 February, President Yeltsin
signed a decree turning the state enterprise Rosugol into an open joint-
stock company, but with 100% state ownership for three years. Both the
management and unions of the monopoly coal producer are keen to stay in
state ownership in order to ensure a steady flow of subsidies, Izvestiya
reported on 13 February. The paper suggested that the Economics Ministry
is the only agency arguing against the continuation of state control
over the coalmining industry. Real privatization would trigger a wave of
closures of unprofitable pits. There are growing complaints that profits
are being siphoned off from parts of the industry even as miners go
unpaid and subsidies continue to flow in. -- Peter Rutland

MONETARY POLICY MAY BE WEAKENING. On 9 February, the Central Bank cut
the refinancing rate (the rate at which it lends to banks) from 160% to
120%, Ekho Moskvy reported the same day. Finansovye izvestiya noted on
13 January that a similar cut in August 1994 had preceded the "Black
Tuesday" ruble crash in October of that year. The bank's move is a
response to the cash crisis facing Russian industry. Firms have been
squeezed by the tight monetary policy of the past few months. Yet
investors expect inflation to accelerate between now and the June
elections. This leaves Russian firms in the worst of both worlds.
Credits are expensive (60-80% annual interest at minimum) with a maximum
duration of three months. -- Peter Rutland

HEAD OF VNESHEKONOMBANK DISMISSED. President Yeltsin dismissed Anatolii
Nosko on 8 February from his position as head of Vneshekonombank, the
state-owned bank responsible for foreign currency transactions,
Kommersant-Daily reported on 10 February. Similar to January's cadre
reshuffling at Sberbank (see OMRI Daily Digest, 25 January), the move
signals the government's intention to exert stronger control over the
bank's activities. Deputy Finance Minister Andrei Vavilov criticized the
bank for speculating in Russian treasury bills with funds earmarked for
repaying foreign debts. -- Natalia Gurushina

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

THREE MILITARY OFFICERS SENTENCED TO DEATH IN AZERBAIJAN. On 12
February, a military court in Baku sentenced three former ranking
military officers to death for "high treason," Turan and Western
agencies reported. The three are Alikram Gummatov, who proclaimed the
secession of the so-called Talysh-Murgan Republic from Azerbaijan in the
summer of 1993; former Defense Minister Rahim Gaziev, charged with
responsibility for military defeats in the war in Nagorno-Karabakh in
1993; and former Minister of National Security Nariman Imranov, who
engineered their escape from pre-trial detention in September 1994
shortly before an alleged coup attempt. Gummatov was recaptured, but
Gaziev is reportedly in Moscow and was sentenced in absentia. Arif
Pashayev, a former army commander who escaped with Gummatov and Gaziev
in September 1994, was sentenced to five years' imprisonment. -- Liz
Fuller

ARMENIAN OPPOSITION CALLS FOR RECOGNITION OF NKR. Several Armenian
opposition parties, including the Democratic Party of Armenia (the
successor to the Armenian CP) and the Scientific-Industrial and Civic
Union, have issued an appeal to the Armenian government to grant
international recognition to the self-proclaimed Republic of Nagorno-
Karabakh, Noyan Tapan reported on 12 February. Armenian President Levon
Ter-Petrossyan has stated that Armenia will recognize the NKR only after
another country has formally done so. -- Liz Fuller

NIYAZOV IN ANKARA. Following a five-day stay in Istanbul, Turkmenistan's
President Sapamurad Niyazov traveled to Ankara, where he signed a
memorandum of understanding for the sale of 10-15 billion cubic meters
of natural gas between 1998 and 2020 with his Turkish counterpart,
Suleyman Demirel, the Turkish press reported on 13 February. The
agreement appears to dodge the all-important question of the route by
which Turkmen gas will reach Turkey. One quarter of the estimated 200
foreign companies operating in Turkmenistan are Turkish; they have
invested approximately $1.5 billion over the past four years. Demirel
lavished praise on Niyazov, noting "the giant steps Turkmenistan is
taking toward democracy, secularism, and market economics." -- Lowell
Bezanis

SCABIES AND LICE EPIDEMIC IN KAZAKHSTAN. More than 60,000 people in
Kazakhstan, mostly children, are afflicted with lice and scabies: 42,234
cases of scabies and 18,000 of lice were noted in 1995, ITAR-TASS
reported on 12 February. These figures came to light after a seven-year-
old girl in a Zhambul collective farm died of scabies after being
treated with medicine used on cattle. The Kazakhstani Health Ministry
said no medicines were available to rid humans of these parasites. Owing
to a lack of running water and indoor plumbing in many remote regions,
people have traditionally used the public baths. Few can now afford the
high prices of the baths, which are being privatized. -- Bhavna Dave

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Penny Morvant

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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