To live is so startling, it leaves little time for anything else. - Emily Dickinson
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 138, Part I, 18 July 1996


This is Part I of the Open Media Research Institute's Daily Digest.
Part I is a compilation of news concerning Russia, Transcaucasia and
Central Asia. Part II, covering Central, Eastern, and Southeastern
Europe is distributed simultaneously as a second document. Back
issues of the Daily Digest, and other information about OMRI, are
available through OMRI's WWW pages: http://www.omri.cz/Index.html

RUSSIA

YELTSIN NAMES RODIONOV DEFENSE MINISTER. President Boris Yeltsin has
named Col. Gen. Igor Rodionov to replace Pavel Grachev as defense
minister, Russian media reported on 17 July. Known by some as the
"Butcher of Tbilisi" because troops under his command killed some 20
peaceful demonstrators in the Georgian capital in 1989, Rodionov had
been the commander of the prestigious Voroshilov Military Academy of
the General Staff. He was the first choice of Security Council
Secretary Aleksandr Lebed. Rodionov said that his first task would be
to "deal with 'hot spots' where our people are [being] killed,"
naming Chechnya, Tajikistan, and Bosnia. Then he said he would turn
to military reform. Introducing Rodionov to the military's top brass
at the Barvikha spa on 18 July, Yeltsin instructed the generals to
transform the army into an all-volunteer force by the year 2000,
ITAR-TASS reported (see OMRI Daily Digest, 17 May 1996). -- Doug
Clarke and Laura Belin

REACTION TO RODIONOV APPOINTMENT. Politicians across the spectrum
praised Rodionov as an honest professional, Russian media reported on
17 July. Duma Defense Committee Chairman Lev Rokhlin, whose
corruption allegations helped remove Gen. Konstantin Kobets from
contention for the job, called Yeltsin's decision "exceptionally
wise." Leading members of the Communist Party, including Duma Speaker
Gennadii Seleznev, Duma Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin,
and Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Valentin Varennikov also
hailed the move. In addition, Russia's Democratic Choice (DVR) Duma
deputy Eduard Vorobev, who quit the army in December 1994 rather than
lead the storming of Grozny, praised Rodionov, but Yabloko Duma
deputy Aleksei Arbatov said he believed there were better candidates
for the job, and DVR member Sergei Yushenkov lamented that a civilian
had not been named. Rodionov's appointment will strengthen Aleksandr
Lebed's influence over security policy. It is also a typical
balancing move for Yeltsin, who just appointed Anatolii Chubais to
lead his administration (Chubais is likely to cross swords with
Lebed). -- Laura Belin

DUMA ASKS YELTSIN TO RENATIONALIZE ORT. Complaining of pro-Yeltsin
bias on the Channel 1 broadcaster Russian Public TV (ORT), the State
Duma passed a non-binding resolution asking the president to
transform ORT from a closed joint-stock company to a state-owned
network, Russian media reported on 17 July. ORT was partly privatized
under a November 1994 presidential decree, but the state retained 51%
of the company's shares. Several efforts by the Duma since then to
reverse the restructuring have been blocked by President Yeltsin.
Commenting on Vladimir Zhirinovsky's proposal to divide time on ORT
equally among the president, government, and parliament, ORT
Director-General Sergei Blagovolin told NTV that such a policy would
drive viewers to drink out of boredom. On the same day, the Duma
asked the government to instruct the Finance Ministry to distribute
funds allocated under the 1996 budget to regional radio and
television companies, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Laura Belin

UPPER HOUSE REJECTS TRANSFER OF POWER BILL. The Federation Council on
17 July rejected the Duma's draft of the bill on handing power over
to a newly elected president, NTV reported. Council members did not
like the bill's provision that the newly elected president could
attend meetings of state institutions or have access to any documents
he requested before being inaugurated. They argued that such rights
would effectively bring about the transfer before the old president's
term had expired. The Duma bill envisions the transfer of power from
Yeltsin to a pro-communist president and is seeking to prevent the
incumbent from making any last-minutes rulings that would weaken his
successor. -- Robert Orttung

UPPER HOUSE REJECTS TROPHY ART LAW. The Federation Council on 17 July
voted down a law that would have effectively nationalized the vast
majority of artworks seized by Soviet troops from Germany at the end
of WW II, Russian and Western media reported. Two-thirds of Duma
deputies had approved the legislation last week to the dismay of
German officials--including Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who had said he
would seek direct talks with President Yeltsin over the issue. Deputy
Culture Minister Mikhail Shvydkoi said the Council rejected the
legislation because it was "inconsistent with international standards
and Russian legislation." He pointed to the Russian Civil Code, which
provides for full compensation to former owners--in particular foreign
individuals and organizations--for property confiscated by the state.
At the same time, he stressed his ministry's position that trophy art
will not be returned without compensation in kind. German Foreign
Minister Klaus Kinkel welcomed the Council's decision. -- Jan Cleave

BELYAEV SEES POSSIBILITY OF EARLY DUMA ELECTION. Our Home Is Russia
Duma faction leader Sergei Belyaev said that President Yeltsin could
disband the Duma if it does not begin working on a legal basis for
reform, ITAR-TASS reported 17 July. Belyaev charged that political
debates often replace legislative work in the Duma Committees and on
the floor "with the clear connivance" of Duma Speaker Gennadii
Seleznev. The Russian Regions factions has demanded that Seleznev
account for the Duma's expenses, charging that the Duma is not paying
its employees, reducing the number of hearings, failing to reimburse
business trip expenses, and that its motorpool is practically
paralyzed. Former Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin charged that the money is
being siphoned off to the Communist Party. -- Robert Orttung

LEBED ATTENDS MEETING OF CHECHNYA COMMISSION. Security Council
Secretary Aleksandr Lebed on 17 July attended a session of the
government commission to resolve the Chechen conflict for the first
time, Russian and Western agencies reported. At the session, Prime
Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin attributed the collapse of the ongoing
peace talks to acting Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev's lack
of control over his field commanders. Russian Nationalities Minister
Vyacheslav Mikhailov and the commander of the Russian forces in
Chechnya, Lt. Gen. Vyacheslav Tikhomirov, called for a resumption of
peace talks with both Chechen factions, according to Reuters. Chechen
Deputy Prime Minister Abdulla Bugaev accused the Russian troops of
killing innocent civilians in Chechnya, ITAR-TASS reported. Pro-
Moscow Chechen head of state Doku Zavgaev again called for the
replacement of OSCE Chechnya mission head Tim Guldimann, alleging
that he had both overstepped his powers and failed to discharge his
duties. Meanwhile, Russian war planes launched massive air raids on
villages in the southeastern raion of Shatoi during the night of 17-
18 July, AFP reported. -- Liz Fuller

TATAR COMMUNISTS AND NATIONALISTS UNITE. Several Tatar Communist and
nationalist organizations have merged together to create the Popular
Patriotic Union of Tatarstan, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 July. The
Tatar Communist Party, Party of National Independence "Ittifak,"
Tatar Youth Union "Azatlyk," and the republican branch of Sergei
Baburin's Russian National Union have joined the new movement. The
Communist Party secretary, Robert Sadykov, said the pro-independence
nationalists and the Communists--who support a restoration of the
USSR--were brought together by a common animosity toward the current
regime. The new movement accuses the republican authorities of
falsifying the presidential election results in Tatarstan. -- Anna
Paretskaya

KOVALEV MEETS GORE, PROTESTS CHECHEN FIGHTING. At the end of his
Moscow visit, U.S. Vice President Al Gore met with veteran human
rights campaigner Sergei Kovalev at Moscow's Central Hospital on 16
June, Radio Rossii reported the following day. Kovalev, who is
recovering from a heart attack, expressed deep concern over the
renewed heavy fighting in Chechnya, arguing that it is primarily the
fault of the federal forces. Kovalev has written an open letter to
President Yeltsin and Lebed protesting the fighting and accusing them
of going back on their preelection promises to end the war, Reuters
reported. The agency said the liberal daily Izvestiya had been due to
publish the letter but then refused to do so. Gore pushed for a
resumption of the ceasefire during his visit but refrained from
criticizing President Yeltsin in public. -- Penny Morvant

PRIMAKOV CHARGES HAGUE TRIBUNAL WITH BIAS. Russian Foreign Minister
Yevgenii Primakov on 17 July accused the Hague war crimes tribunal
for former Yugoslavia of lacking objectivity, Reuters reported. He
also warned that arresting Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic on a
warrant issued by the tribunal could undermine the Bosnian election
planned for 14 September. Although Russia has complained that the
majority of those indicted by the tribunal are Serbs, Primakov's
statement was the first outright accusation of bias against the
tribunal, whose creation Russia backed. -- Robert Orttung

FAR EASTERN ENERGY CRISIS COULD THREATEN NATIONAL SECURITY. The
Primorskii Krai administration has sent a letter to Lebed warning
that the energy crisis in the Far East could endanger national
security, Russian media reported on 17 July. The chief of staff of
the Strategic Rocket Forces, Col. Gen. Viktor Yesin, also warned that
the crisis could result in power cuts to some strategic missile
bases. (In September 1994, power was temporarily shut off to the
missile forces' main command center near Moscow and later to their
testing range at Plesetsk, because of the military's inability to pay
its bills.) A Border Troop commander denied, however, that the alarm
system on the Russian-Chinese border had been switched off, as
earlier reported. In a move that should alleviate the situation
temporarily, the Pacific Fleet announced that it will transfer more
fuel oil to the krai from its reserves, ITAR-TASS reported on 18
July. -- Penny Morvant

RUSSIA RATIFIES CURRENCY AGREEMENT WITH BELARUS. The State Duma and
the Federation Council have ratified the currency agreement signed on
6 January 1995 by the Russian and Belarusian governments and national
banks, ITAR-TASS and Kommersant-Daily reported on 13-17 July. The
agreement calls for the unification of currency legislation in the
two countries. It also stipulates that the Russian Central Bank and
the National Bank of Belarus will have to provide regular exchange
rate quotes for both currencies. The agreement allows companies and
organizations from the two countries to carry out mutual payments
either in Russian or Belarusian rubles, or in hard currencies. The
measure is expected to boost bilateral trade. It remains to be seen,
however, how the agreement will work in practice given the different
pace of economic reforms in the two countries. -- Natalia Gurushina

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

IMF OFFERS $446 MILLION CREDIT TO KAZAKHSTAN. The IMF announced that
it will extend a $446 million credit to Kazakhstan to support its
three-year economic reform program, AFP reported on 17 July. The
first $54 million installment is expected to be released later this
year. The government's economic plan aims to reduce inflation from
60% in 1995 to 26% this year and less than 10% in 1998. The credit is
also aimed at completing the privatization of government-owned
industry and reforming the country's financial sector. -- Bhavna Dave

KOMSOMOLSKAYA PRAVDA ASKED TO EXPLAIN VIEWS ON SOLZHENITSYN. An
Almaty court has asked Komsomolskaya pravda to issue a public
statement within a week to explain its views on the controversial
article "Conversations with Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn" published in the
newspaper's 23 April issue, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 July. The
court's decision is seen as an attempt to steer a middle ground
between the procurator-general and Kazakh writers who want the
newspaper to be banned and the newspaper's editors who maintain that
the publication of Solzhenitsyn's views on Kazakhstan (see OMRI Daily
Digest, 10 June 1996) does not imply an endorsement of his position.
-- Bhavna Dave

NEW CABINET APPOINTMENT IN UZBEKISTAN. President Islam Karimov on 17
July appointed Tahir Rakhimov to the post of foreign trade minister,
Reuters reported. Rakhimov, who previously held the post of
communications minister, takes over the position vacated last
December when Utkur Sultanov left to become prime minister. -- Roger
Kangas

TAJIKISTAN-UZBEKISTAN SIGN COOPERATION AGREEMENT. Representatives
from Tajikistan and Uzbekistan on 17 July signed a natural gas
agreement that could resolve a major bilateral problem, ITAR-TASS
reported. Tajikistan is heavily dependent on Uzbekistan for natural
gas supplies, something Uzbekistan has used to its advantage in
bilateral relations. In the winter of 1995, Uzbekistan cut back
supplies of natural gas to Tajikistan forcing Dushanbe to implement
drastic rationing measures. Uzbekistan claimed it had received only
3% of what it was owed for gas deliveries over a two-year period. The
new agreement confirms Uzbek shipments of natural gas to Tajikistan
in exchange for the right to ship goods through Tajikistan.
Uzbekistan also promised to consider lowering gas prices. -- Bruce
Pannier

TAJIKS CLOSE BORDER WITH AFGHANISTAN. Citing intelligence reports of
an opposition build-up along the Tajik-Afghan border, the Tajik
government on 17 July announced that all trading posts along its
southern border are closed, Reuters reported. Presidential spokesman
Zafar Saidov added that the government is "reviewing its relations
with all countries that provide support for the armed opposition,"
although Saidov stopped short of naming any particular countries. It
is unclear whether the move will affect the repatriation of Tajik
refugees from Afghanistan. -- Bruce Pannier


[As of 12:00 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez

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