Live all you can: it's a mistake not to. It doesn't so much matter what you do in particular, so long as you have your life. If you haven't had that what have you had? - Henry James
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 51, Part I, 12 March 1996


******E-MAIL NOTE: The leased line connecting OMRI to the Internet was
accidentally severed on 9 March. Since then, we have had no Internet
access, which means that we are unable to send or receive e-mail via the
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If you've tried to contact us, your e-mail messages have likely been
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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 CONSIDERING REPLACING LOBOV WITH GRACHEV ON SECURITY COUNCIL.
President Boris Yeltsin is considering replacing Security Council
Chairman Oleg Lobov, who is unable to perform his duties because of a
severe heart condition that requires hospitalization, with Defense
Minister Pavel Grachev. ITAR-TASS claimed that Yeltsin advisers such as
First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets, who is organizing the
president's re-election campaign, are warning the president that he will
not be able to win the election with Grachev as defense minister.
However, unidentified Security Council staffers told ITAR-TASS that
Grachev is "unsuited for the analytical activity" the job requires.
Yurii Baturin, national security adviser to the president, and former
Federation Council Speaker Vladimir Shumeiko are also candidates for the
Security Council position. ITAR-TASS suggested that the Security Council
will play an increasingly important role as Yeltsin tries to end the
Chechen war and restructure his social policies. -- Robert Orttung
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

RUSSIA

DEFENSE MINISTRY REJECTS RUMORS OF GRACHEV DISMISSAL. The Collegium of
the Defense Ministry rejected any rumors about Grachev's resignation and
said that this speculation is causing an "unacceptable destabilization
of the situation in the armed forces," in a statement to politicians and
the media published in the military newspaper Krasnaya zvezda on 12
March. The statement denounced "deliberately false allegations" that
cast doubts on the effectiveness of the armed forces, claiming that
"this kind of activity suits certain forces which are taking part in the
campaign." NTV viewed the statement as a response to the Security
Council staff's disparaging remarks about Grachev. Grachev's dismissal
has long been rumored, but he survived Yeltsin's sacrifice of other top
ministers in June 1995 following a Duma vote of no confidence after the
Budennovsk hostage-taking incident. -- Robert Orttung

KULIKOV ASSESSES GROZNY FIGHTING. Russian Interior Minister Anatolii
Kulikov has criticized the inability of Russian federal forces, Interior
Ministry troops, and Chechen Interior Ministry forces to coordinate the
defense of the city during the past five days of fighting against
Chechen militants loyal to President Dzhokhar Dudaev, Russian TV
reported. Speaking at a press conference in Grozny on 11 March following
a session of the Chechen government, Kulikov said that 79 Russian troops
were killed in the fighting, 276 wounded, and 40 missing; he estimated
the Chechen casualties at 300 dead and 350 wounded, ITAR-TASS reported.
Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Vakha Sagaev told ITAR-TASS on 12 March
that isolated groups of Chechen militants still in Grozny continued to
subject some areas of the city center to sporadic sniper fire.
Meanwhile, a Chechen military commander in the village of Bamut close to
the Ingush border threatened on 11 March to begin executing Russian
troops held prisoner if Russian air raids on the village continue, AFP
reported. -- Liz Fuller

YELTSIN SEEKS TO CO-OPT LEBED. A representative of the government has
proposed to Duma member Aleksandr Lebed that he take charge of a
"federal foundation" to return illegally-exported capital to Russia,
Izvestiya reported on 12 March. The plan is likely aimed at winning over
some of the pro-communist electorate and removing one of Yeltsin's
opponents from the race. -- Robert Orttung

YELTSIN TURNS DOWN CHANGES TO SELF-GOVERNMENT LAW. President Yeltsin has
turned down a bill passed by the Duma on amendments to the local self
government law, ITAR-TASS reported on 11 March. The bill, passed in
February, would have prolonged the terms of office of all local
administrations until January 1997. The law on self-government, adopted
in August 1995, stipulates that elections to all local legislatures and
executives will be held in March 1996. However, in September, Yeltsin
issued a decree postponing all local elections until December 1996; in
December, he proposed that the law be amended to give both regional and
local legislatures time to prepare for the elections. In his rejection
of the latest bill, Yeltsin said that postponing the date of the
elections until December 1996 is not enough to ensure "efficient self-
government." -- Anna Paretskaya

HUNGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN MOSCOW. Hungarian Foreign Minister Lazlo
Kovacs met with his Russian counterpart, Yevgenii Primakov, in Moscow on
11 March, Russian and Western media reported. Afterwards, Primakov said
Russia remains opposed to NATO expansion, but he expressed hope that a
compromise "taking into account the concerns of all sides" could form
the basis for a new European security system. He suggested that such a
compromise could include a decision by NATO not to station troops in
Eastern European countries if they joined the alliance. Kovacs
reiterated Hungary's desire to join NATO but said the policy is not
directed against Moscow. The two diplomats also agreed to form a new
bilateral working group that will strive to reduce Hungary's trade
deficit with Russia by stimulating Hungarian exports. In 1995, Hungary
ran a $1 billion trade deficit with Russia, accounting for almost half
of its overall trade deficit. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIA REFUSES TO PARTICIPATE IN BOSNIAN AID CONFERENCE. Russian UN
Representative Sergei Lavrov announced on 11 March that Russia will not
participate in an international conference on military assistance for
the Muslim-Croat Federation, ITAR-TASS reported. The 41-state meeting,
to be held on 15 March in Ankara, aims to foster a stable military
balance in Bosnia, where the Serbs have held an advantage because of
access to cadres and heavy weapons from rump Yugoslavia. Lavrov said
that although Russia shares the goal of promoting stability in Bosnia,
efforts should center on political rather than military means. He
criticized the conference's focus on augmenting the federation's
military capabilities, saying it should be working on regional arms
control as specified in the Dayton accords. Lavrov's statement came on
the same day that the U.S. announced a $100 million military assistance
package for the Muslim-Croat Federation. -- Scott Parrish

YELTSIN TO VISIT CHINA IN APRIL. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister
Aleksandr Panov confirmed on 11 March that President Yeltsin will make
an official visit to Beijing during the second half of April, Russian
and Western agencies reported. Other officials told ITAR-TASS that
Yeltsin will sign at least 10 agreements during the visit, including a
multilateral border security agreement that will also be signed by the
leaders of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. Panov said that
recent tensions between China and Taiwan would not block Yeltsin's trip.
He reiterated that Russia views Taiwan as a part of China, and called
for a "peaceful solution" to their dispute. Yeltsin canceled a scheduled
November 1995 visit to China when he was hospitalized with heart
problems. -- Scott Parrish

SWISS EXTRADITE BANKER TO RUSSIA. Swiss police on 7 March handed over
former Kontinent Bank Chairman Igor Kosarev to Russian authorities at
Sheremetevo airport, Izvestiya reported on 12 March. The paper said it
was the first extradition of a criminal suspect from Western Europe to
Russia. Kosarev is under investigation for the April 1995 killing of
Maj. Vladimir Markov, an inspector with the Russian Tax Police. Before
his death, Markov had conducted an audit of Kontinent Bank which
resulted in the bank paying a $360,000 fine, and he had also begun an
investigation into the business activities of some of the bank's
shareholders, including Kosarev. Swiss authorities had delayed
extraditing Kosarev because of doubts about the evidence against him,
but finally did so when the Moscow prosecutor proposed that Kosarev
could await trial under house arrest, rather than in jail. -- Scott
Parrish

COURT RULES IN FAVOR OF MAYAK VICTIMS. The Constitutional Court ruled on
11 March that all those affected by the nuclear accident at the Mayak
combine in Chelyabinsk Oblast in 1957 are eligible for compensation
payments, Russian TV reported. A 1993 law provided for benefits to be
paid only to people who were evacuated from the area completely,
excluding those who were moved to neighboring streets where radioactive
contamination was lower. The court ruled that the legislation
contravenes Russian citizens' constitutional right to equal treatment
under the law and to live in decent environmental conditions, Ekho
Moskvy reported. The ruling significantly increases the number of people
entitled to benefits and will require extra regional and federal
spending. -- Penny Morvant

SAFETY STANDARDS AT NUCLEAR STORAGE FACILITY QUESTIONED. Media reports
on 11 March claimed that safety standards are being violated at a
nuclear storage facility southeast of Moscow, but a spokesman for the
Nuclear Power Ministry denied the allegations. NTV said that a warehouse
at the ministry's Lytkarino Research Institute about 35 km from the
capital, where about 40 tons of radioactive waste is being stored,
failed to meet safety requirements. Security was also said to be lax.
Ministry spokesman Georgii Kaurov told ITAR-TASS, however, that although
more waste than normal is currently being stored there because of
construction work on the road outside the warehouse, radiation levels
both in and around the facility are normal. -- Penny Morvant

GOVERNMENT SET TO CLEAR WAGE ARREARS. The government still intends to
clear all wage arrears to state employees by the end of this month,
Finance Minister Vladimir Panskov told ITAR-TASS on 11 March. On top of
the March wage bill for federal employees of 7.9 trillion rubles ($1.6
billion), 3.8 trillion in wage arrears will be paid. The Finance
Ministry will also lend 2.5 trillion rubles interest free to regional
governments to help them pay off their wage debts. Panskov explained
that the money will be raised by issuing more government bonds. This
will not feed inflation but will push up the cost of capital and thus
hinder investment. -- Peter Rutland

WESTERN TELECOM COMPANIES GET ULTIMATUM. Russia has asked U.S. West,
France Telecom, and Deutsche Bundespost Telecom to confirm their
participation in the 50x50 project by the end of March, AFP reported on
11 March. The consortium, set up in October 1994, aims to connect 50
Russian cities with a digital and optical fiber network adding 20
million telephones to the existing 26 million by 2010. The government is
also proposing to cut by about half the 49% of 50x50 equity which the
Western firms were initially offered -- Natalia Gurushina

ZAVERYUKHA ON THE LAND DECREE. Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr
Zaveryukha, speaking on Russian TV on 11 March, defended the land decree
issued by President Yeltsin on 7 March. The Agrarian Party's faction
leader in the Duma, Nikolai Kharitonov, said his party will challenge
the decree's constitutionality, Pravda reported on 12 March. Zaveryukha
revealed that he "temporarily" suspended his own involvement in the
Agrarian Party last week. Zaveryukha said the decree will make it easier
for the 12 million former collective and state farm members to claim
personal land shares from their farm, and to sell the land or bequeath
it to their heirs. It also loosens the size limits on dacha plots. It
remains to be seen whether this measure will be implemented more
effectively than a similar decree issued by Yeltsin in October 1993. The
Duma is scheduled to start debating a new comprehensive Land Code in
April. -- Peter Rutland

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

RUSSIA, KAZAKHSTAN, AND OMAN SIGN FINAL PIPELINE DEAL. Russia,
Kazakhstan, and Oman signed a final agreement on the construction of a
pipeline that will run from Kazakhstan's Tengiz oil field to the Russian
port of Novorossiisk on the Black Sea, Western media reported on 11
March. Russia, Kazakhstan, and Oman are to hold half of the shares
together, with the other half going to the Russian company LUKoil and
the Western firms Mobil Oil, British Gas, and Agip. Oman, which was
originally supposed to hold half of the consortium shares and undertake
most of the financing, has a reduced share of 10% in the $1.8 billion
construction project. Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC) manager Edward
Smith said the deal will speed up construction, which had been stalled
due to disputes over shares. -- Bhavna Dave

TAJIK PARLIAMENT OPENS. The Tajik parliament opened an extraordinary
session on 11 March without the participation of opposition
representatives, ITAR-TASS reported. Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov
praised the opposition for extending the ceasefire agreement until 26
May but also had harsh words for their decision to boycott the session.
The opposition explained its decision by citing the government's
inability to guarantee the safety of opposition representatives. United
Tajik Opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri said that if one of his
members was killed while attending the session, his group would have to
retaliate and any chance of peace would be destroyed. -- 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


----=_Tuesday, March 12, 1996 3:15 PM--
 
         

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