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OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 144, Part I, 26 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 FORMS NEW DEFENSE COUNCIL . . . President Boris Yeltsin signed a
decree creating an 18-member Defense Council to implement decisions of
the Security Council and help draft military policies, Russian and
Western agencies reported on 25 July. Yeltsin will chair the council,
Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin will be its deputy chairman and Yurii
Baturin, whom Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed replaced as
presidential security adviser last month, will serve as Defense Council
secretary. Other prominent members are Lebed, Defense Minister Igor
Rodionov, Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais, Interior Minister Anatolii
Kulikov, Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov, and Federal Security
Service Director Nikolai Kovalev. Since Lebed will have only the status
of an ordinary member, the decree appears to be yet another balancing
move on Yeltsin's part. -- Laura Belin

. . . AND OBJECTS TO DRAFT LAW ON MILITARY COUNCIL. On the same day he
officially formed the Defense Council , Yeltsin notified the State Duma
of his objections to the draft law on a Military Council, ITAR-TASS
reported. Yeltsin's statement said the draft law would violate the
Constitution by granting powers to the Military Council that are already
vested in the president, the Security Council, the Defense Ministry, and
the General Staff. The draft law, prepared by Duma Defense Committee
Chairman Lev Rokhlin, would have increased Lebed's authority over
military matters (see OMRI Daily Digest, 19 July 1996). -- Laura Belin

SPECULATION OVER NEW GOVERNMENT CONTINUES. The main candidates for the
position of first deputy prime minister covering economic issues are
Presidential Advisor Aleksandr Livshits, Duma Member Aleksandr Shokhin,
First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Kadannikov, and Yabloko leader
Grigorii Yavlinskii, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported on 25 July. A
newcomer to the list of those under consideration is 35-year-old
Oneksimbank President Vladimir Potanin, Izvestiya reported on 26 July.
Oneksimbank is one of the most powerful and secretive banks in Russia.
Kommersant-Daily on 26 July pointed out that Yavlinskii will not join a
government that continues to wage war in Chechnya. -- Robert Orttung

YELTSIN RESTRUCTURES ADMINISTRATION. President Boris Yeltsin approved
Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais' rationalization of the administration
on 25 July, ITAR-TASS reported. The plan will be carried out over the
next two months. The changes include removing four of the six
departments set up by Chubais' predecessor Nikolai Yegorov --
constitutional guarantee of citizens' rights, personnel, foreign and
domestic policy, and analysis (See OMRI Daily Digest, 31 January 1996).
The decree concentrates power in Chubais' hands, eliminating the
position of first aide, formerly held by Viktor Ilyushin, and putting
Chubais in charge of Yeltsin's staff of advisors. -- Robert Orttung

GOVERNMENT NOT FULFILLING PRESIDENTIAL ORDERS. Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin lashed out at the Finance Ministry and State Property
Committee (GKI) on 25 July, Ekho Moskvy reported. The ministry was
responsible for 11 of 23 unfulfilled presidential decrees, while the
committee had not acted on three. Chernomyrdin said that these results
would be taken into account when forming the new government, suggesting
that Finance Minister Vladimir Panskov may lose his position. The GKI
has been without is currently without leadership, after Aleksandr
Kazakov's appointment as Chubais' assistant. According to government
Chief of Staff Vladimir Babichev, the Economics Ministry and the Defense
Industry Ministry were also major offenders, Rossiiskie vesti reported
on 26 July. Fifty percent of presidential decrees are implemented only
after their deadlines. The appointment of Yurii Yarov and Kazakov, both
former members of the government, as Chubais' assistants will promote
better coordination between the president and government, Russian TV
(RTR) suggested. -- Robert Orttung

CONFUSION OVER LEBED'S NEW MOVEMENT. The Security Council press service
complained that a number of "fabricated reports" about its secretary
Aleksandr Lebed have been circulated recently by the Interfax news
agency, ITAR-TASS reported on 25 July. In particular, it said no
official information had been issued concerning a new political movement
called Truth and Order, which Lebed was reported to be forming (see OMRI
Daily Digest, 25 July 1996). However, later the same day the Security
Council press service withdrew its statement of complaint "for technical
reasons," and ITAR-TASS was not able to clarify whether the original
reports about Truth and Order were correct. -- Laura Belin

NEW CONDITIONS FOR RENEWING CHECHEN TALKS. Chechen chief of staff Aslan
Maskhadov said on 25 July that he is prepared to meet with the head of
the North Caucasus Military District, Lt.-Gen. Anatolii Kvashnin, only
if the head of the OSCE mission in Grozny, Tim Guldimann, is present to
guarantee his safety, Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported. Russian
Nationalities Minister Vyacheslav Mikhailov told ITAR-TASS that Moscow
is ready to resume talks immediately the Chechen side starts to
implement the measures specified in the 27 May and 10 June agreements.
Lt.-Gen. Konstantin Pulikovskii, who on 24 July took over as acting
commander of the Russian federal troops in Chechnya, ruled out talks
with either Shamil Basaev or Salman Raduev, according to ORT. Russian
Independent Television (NTV) quoted the news agency Argumenty i fakty --
Novosti as reporting that Dzhokhar Dudaev is alive and convalescing in
Turkey after having been spirited across the border between the Russian
Federation and Azerbaijan in an OSCE jeep. -- Liz Fuller

FEDERAL TROOPS IN CHECHNYA ARRESTED FOR MURDER. Two Interior Ministry
soldiers have been arrested on suspicion of murdering 13 civilians in
Grozny, RIA reported on 25 July. The two were said to have been the only
surviving crew members of an armored personnel carrier involved in the
incident. Isa Aliroev, the deputy prime minister in the pro-Moscow
Chechen government, said the case was under the personal attention of
Russian Procurator-General Yurii Skuratov. -- Doug Clarke

WESTERN PLOT TO DESTROY RUSSIA? In an interview with Pravda-5 on 26
July, the chairman of the Duma's Security Committee, Viktor Ilyukhin,
said the Western powers want to undermine the Slavic world and split
Russia into 4-5 states. He suggested that Kaliningrad, the Far East, and
North Caucasus are the first targets, and he warned Ukraine that the
IMF, U.S., and Turkey intend to give Crimea back to the Tatars. With
regard to the former Yugoslavia, "What Adolf Hitler failed to accomplish
is today being realized," Ilyukhin said. Addressing the Federation
Council the same day, First Deputy Minister for Nationalities Andrei
Chernenko said that ethnic tension within the Russian Federation is the
main threat to Russia's security, Radio Rossii reported. He noted with
concern that increasing numbers of ethnic Russians are migrating out of
the ethnic republics, a trend which is presumably most marked in the
North Caucasus. (See related story in "Central and Eastern Europe"
section.) -- Peter Rutland

MOSCOW CONDEMNS LIBYA, IRAN SANCTIONS BILL. Russia on 25 July condemned
draft U.S. legislation that would penalize foreign energy companies
operating in Libya and Iran, Russian and Western agencies reported. A
Foreign Ministry spokesman said Russia views the proposed measure as a
violation of international law and infringing on Russian rights. The
European Union has also attacked the measure, adopted by the U.S. House
of Representatives on 23 July. The bill provides for sanctions against
foreign companies that invest more than $40 million a year in the
Iranian or Libyan oil and natural gas sectors. -- Penny Morvant

NEW MUSLIM MOVEMENT REGISTERED. The All-Russian Public Political
Movement Muslims of Russia has been registered with the Justice
Ministry, Radio Rossii reported on 25 July. The new organization is
headed by Mukaddas Bibarsov, who resigned as General Secretary of the
Union of Muslims of Russia (SMR) in February. Though Bibarsov disagreed
with the SMR leadership over supporting President Yeltsin's re-election
in June, the new movement he leads will support the policy of democratic
reform aimed at raising living standards. The new movement calls for the
unification of Muslims of Russia and the CIS. -- Anna Paretskaya

CASE AGAINST FORMER SPORTS FUND HEAD DROPPED. The case against former
National Sports Foundation head Boris Fedorov, who was detained in May
after 4.5 grams of cocaine were found in his car, has been dropped, ORT
reported on 25 July. Fedorov, who subsequently lost his foundation
position, also narrowly escaped an assassination attempt after the
incident. On 8 July an article published in Novaya gazeta cited him
accusing Shamil Tarpishchev, the head of the Russian Federation Sports
Committee and Yeltsin's tennis coach, of links with organized crime. He
also allegedly accused former Presidential Security Service head
Aleksandr Korzhakov and former Federal Security Service head Mikhail
Barsukov of condoning Tarpishchev's activities. Fedorov later said his
words had been taken out of context, but he did not explicitly deny the
charges. -- Penny Morvant

FIRST PYRAMID SWINDLER JAILED. Dmitrii Khalzov, the founder of the
Soyuz-Almaz investment company, has become the first of Russia's
notorious pyramid scheme operators to receive a jail sentence, ITAR-TASS
reported on 25 July. Khalzev robbed savers in Samara of 1.2 billion
rubles in 1994. He was sentenced to six years imprisonment. Some 20 to
40 million small investors are thought to have been the victims of
financial scams in Russia. The Duma is currently considering legislation
on compensation for investors defrauded of their savings. -- Penny
Morvant

NEW SYSTEM FOR REGULATING PRICE OF GAS . . . Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin signed a decree on 25 July authorizing the Federal Energy
Commission (FEK) to regulate the price of natural gas, ITAR-TASS
reported. The FEK will oversee the introduction of differential prices
for gas by region, depending on transport costs, and ensure the access
of companies other than Gazprom to the gas pipeline system. These moves,
allowed under the Law on Natural Monopolies, take place amidst an
increase in reports of electricity shutdowns in the regions due to non-
payment of fuel bills. It remains to be seen whether the FEK can be
serious inroads into the pricing policies -- and profits -- of Gazprom.
-- Peter Rutland

. . . AND ELECTRICITY. Chernomyrdin recently signed another decree
ordering the FEK to introduce from October a new system of regional
prices for electricity producers, Segodnya reported on 25 July. The new
system would oblige the holding company Unified Energy System to charge
the same price for electricity in Siberia and the Far East, thereby
subsidizing the latter region. The plan has drawn strong protests from
Irkutsk and Krasnoyarsk, who fear that the resulting higher energy price
will make some of their industries (such as the Krasnoyarsk Aluminum
Plant) unprofitable. -- Peter Rutland

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

6,000 PRISONERS AMNESTIED IN KAZAKHSTAN. According to a presidential
decree signed by Nursultan Nazarbayev on 25 July, 6,000 prisoners will
be freed and others will have their sentences reduced, Reuters reported.
The decree, which takes effect on the first anniversary of the current
Kazakh Constitution, is also designed to help reduce overcrowding in the
country's prisons. Interior Minister Kairbek Suleimenov noted that
Kazakhstan's crime rate dropped by 6.7% during the first six months of
1996 compared to the same period last year, adding that this stability
makes such an amnesty possible. Previous reports by international
organizations, such as Amnesty International, have been critical of
Kazakhstan's overcrowded and disease-infested prisons this past year. --
Roger Kangas

TAJIK OPPOSITION ASSAULTS KOMSOMOLABAD . . . Units of the Tajik
opposition attacked the city of Komsomolabad, ITAR-TASS reported on 25
July. Under cover of darkness, opposition fighters assaulted the city,
killing two government soldiers before being repelled. Battles are being
fought in several areas of the Tavil-Dara region, south of Komsomolabad
and this latest attack may have been a diversionary tactic. -- Bruce
Pannier

. . . AND FIGHTING REPORTED NEAR DUSHANBE. Fighting was reported in
villages as close as 10 kilometers east of the Tajik capital Dushanbe,
according to an ITAR-TASS report on 25 July. The report did not specify
which villages but mentioned that armed groups under the leadership of
"chieftains" Mansur and Rakhmon were in control of the villages. Tajik
government forces are said to have dislodged the groups from their
positions, killing nine. Further east, opposition forces are claiming to
have taken the stretch of the Dushanbe-Khorog highway between the towns
of Faizabad and Obigarm, according to the Radio Voice of Free Tajikistan
as cited by the BBC. Faizabad is about 55 kilometers east of Dushanbe.
-- Bruce Pannier

[As of 12:00 CET]

Compiled by Steve Kettle

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            Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc.
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