Silence is the real crime against humanity. - Nadezhda Mandelstam
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 146, Part I, 30 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

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RUSSIA

PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SERVICE DENIES DEATH RUMORS. President Boris Yeltsin
met with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin 30 July, the president's
press service announced, dismissing suggestions that Yeltsin was ill or
dead, Reuters reported. Rumors about Yeltsin's condition were causing
concern on international markets. The Los Angeles Times reported on 29
July that Yeltsin's latest disappearance "has left Kremlin watchers ever
more mystified as to who is running Russia." Although aides continue to
deny that he is seriously sick, Yeltsin has been out of the public eye
for more than a month. U.S. Vice President Al Gore, the only foreign
leader to meet with Yeltsin during this period, declared him fit. --
Robert Orttung

YELTSIN BACKS LEBED'S CHOICE AS SECURITY COUNCIL DEPUTY. President
Yeltsin agreed on 29 July with Security Council Secretary Aleksandr
Lebed's suggestion to appoint Nikolai Mikhailov as the deputy chairman
of the Security Council, NTV reported. Mikhailov, 59, has a doctorate in
economics and served as the president of Vympel Corporation, which
designs and manufactures anti-missile systems. Mikhailov was one of 13
bankers and industrialists who published an appeal to presidential
candidates Yeltsin and Gennadii Zyuganov on 26 April, calling for a
political compromise to avoid splitting society (See OMRI Daily Digest ,
29 April 1996). The appointment suggests that Yeltsin is continuing a
policy of fostering competing centers of power among his key advisors.
-- Natalia Gurushina and Robert Orttung

RUSSIAN JOURNALIST RELEASED AFTER CONTROVERSIAL TRIAL . . . A local
court in Samara released Valerii Yerofeev, editor of the weekly Vremya-
Iks, after sentencing him to 10 months in prison, exactly the time he
had already served, the Moscow-based Globus Independent Press Syndicate
reported on 29 July. Yerofeev was arrested in September 1995 after his
paper published articles alleging that city police officers were taking
bribes from brothel owners. His trial, which lasted from 18 June to 29
July, was closed to journalists. Watchdog groups including the U.S.-
based Committee to Protect Journalists had protested that there were no
grounds to hold the trial in closed session and that Yerofeev's
prolonged pre-trial detention was unwarranted given his poor health. --
Laura Belin

. . . AS TURKISH JOURNALISTS' SENTENCES COMMUTED. Talip Ozshelik and
Meshmet Ali Tekin, the two Turkish journalists recently sentenced to
three years in prison by a district court in the Republic of Dagestan,
have been released, ITAR-TASS reported on 26 July. The two were found
guilty of entering Russia illegally in November 1994 (see OMRI Daily
Digest, 9 July 1996). Reviewing the case, the Dagestani Supreme Court
reduced their sentences to eight months, exactly the time served since
their arrest. -- Laura Belin

CRITICAL ARTICLES REAPPEAR IN "DEMOCRATIC PRESS." Several newspapers
that supported President Yeltsin's re-election with one-sided coverage
during the campaign have resumed printing articles criticizing official
policies, as was their practice before the spring of this year. For
example, a Moskovskii komsomolets headline on 30 July declared, "Yeltsin
apparently has sclerosis"; commentaries claimed the president had
forgotten his campaign promises to end wage arrears and the war in
Chechnya. On the same day, Izvestiya ran a story suggesting Duma Defense
Committee Chairman Lev Rokhlin, a leading member of the pro-government
Our Home Is Russia movement, may be involved in corruption. Izvestiya
also recently completed a four-part series on corruption in Primorskii
Krai, whose Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko campaigned actively for
Yeltsin. -- Laura Belin

MASKHADOV ESCAPES ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT. For the second time this year,
Chechen chief of staff Aslan Maskhadov on 29 July escaped an
assassination attempt uninjured, Russian and Western agencies reported.
A group of gunmen opened fire on the car in which Maskhadov was
traveling in Nozhai-Yurt raion in southeast Chechnya; one attacker was
shot dead by Maskhadov's bodyguard. On 9 April, 10 people were killed
when a bomb exploded in a cemetery where Maskhadov was due to speak.
Akhmed Zakaev, an aide to acting Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandabiev,
told ITAR-TASS on 29 July that Chechen field commanders had reaffirmed
their readiness to continue talks with Russian representatives on
implementation of the 27 May and 10 June agreements; he also denied any
splits within the Chechen ranks. Field commander Salman Raduev, however,
was quoted by NTV as stating that he refuses to comply with Yandarbiev's
orders to desist from further terrorist acts. -- Liz Fuller

PRIMAKOV: CIS SHOULD JOINTLY OPPOSE NATO EXPANSION. Prime Minister
Viktor Chernomyrdin and Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov addressed a
Moscow gathering of Russian ambassadors to the CIS countries on 29 July,
Russian media reported. Primakov denounced "some forces" in the West for
their "negative attitude" toward CIS integration, which he attributed to
a desire to block the emergence of a "powerful center" in the new post-
cold war multipolar world. He argued that all CIS states have a "common
interest" in the expansion of NATO's "military structures," and urged
the assembled diplomats to convince other CIS states to support Russia's
stance on the issue. Chernomyrdin said Russia will continue pursuing a
course of "pragmatic" integration with the CIS. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIA REGRETS CHINESE NUCLEAR TEST. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman
Vladimir Andreev expressed "regret" on 29 July at the news that China
had carried out a nuclear test, ITAR-TASS reported. But Andreev hailed
the simultaneous Chinese decision to join the voluntary moratorium being
observed by the other four declared nuclear powers pending the
conclusion of a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Also on 29 July
UN-sponsored multilateral talks on the treaty opened in Geneva. While
Russia, France, Great Britain, and the United States all now support a
compromise draft CTBT, China and India, among others, still have
objections to some of its provisions, and it remains unclear when the
treaty will be signed. -- Scott Parrish

PRIMAKOV MEETS KINKEL. Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov met in
Paris with his German counterpart Klaus Kinkel on 29 July to discuss
European security, the controversial issue of so-called "trophy art"
captured during WW II, and the situation in Chechnya, international
media reported. Both diplomats are in the French capital for the 30 July
G-7 sponsored anti-terrorism meeting. Afterwards, Primakov said that
Russia regards the "exaggeration" of the "non-existent problem" of
Bosnian Serb leaders and internationally-wanted war criminals Radovan
Karadzic and Ratko Mladic as a threat to the orderly holding of
elections in Bosnia scheduled for September. While the United States has
reportedly been pressing for Karadzic's exile, Primakov argued that
since both leaders had already ended their "political activity," the
elections should now be the top priority for the international
community. -- Scott Parrish

SECURITY STEPPED UP ON RAILWAYS. The Railway Ministry's military
protection administration has been put on an emergency footing because
of the number of bomb alerts on Russia's railways in recent days, ITAR-
TASS reported on 29 July. The number of patrols on trains and stations
has been increased following one explosion and three attempted bomb
attacks in the past 10 days. -- Penny Morvant

LENINGRAD POWER WORKERS SUSPEND PROTEST. Workers at the Leningrad
nuclear power plant on 29 July suspended a month-long protest over wage
arrears until mid-August, ITAR-TASS reported. The chairman of the
plant's trade union said that the protest had been halted because the
plant's director has been sacked and his replacement has pledged to
produce a timetable by 9 August for paying back wages totaling 25
billion rubles ($5 million). The protest began on 24 June but was
temporarily suspended during the presidential elections. -- Penny
Morvant

GOLD RESERVES TO MOVE TO URALS. The largest part of Russia's gold
reserves will be moved to Sverdlovsk Oblast, President Yeltsin's home
region, NTV reported on 29 July. The gold will be placed in a secret
bunker in the woods, 70 kilometers from Yekaterinburg, the oblast's main
city. According to NTV, the bunker, which was built as a shelter in case
of nuclear war, hosted Russia's "reserve government" headed by Oleg
Lobov during the coup attempt in Moscow in August 1991. During World War
II, part of the gold reserves was also moved to Sverdlovsk Oblast.
Experts say that dispersing the reserves increases security. -- Anna
Paretskaya

ACTION URGED TO PROMOTE FOREIGN INVESTMENT. A round table of businessmen
and parliamentarians from Russia and the U.S. met in London on 29 July
and called for a redoubling of efforts to remove administrative and
legal barriers to foreign investment in Russia, ITAR-TASS reported.
Minister of Fuel and Energy Yurii Shafranik told the gathering that
projects worth a total of $27 billion are under consideration. However,
First Deputy Speaker of the Duma Aleksandr Shokhin urged that projects
include provision for the purchase of equipment from Russian
manufacturers. Foreign investors were shocked by the Duma's failure on
19 July to pass amendments to bring existing legislation into conformity
with the production sharing law passed last year. -- Peter Rutland

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

GEORGIAN PROCURATOR ON "ABUSE OF POWER". Georgian procurator- general
Djamlet Babilashvili, in an interview with the official government
newspaper Sakartvelos respublika on 29 July, charged that senior
officials, including prime ministers and their deputies, passed 1,500
decrees and instructions between 1991 and 1995 that were detrimental to
the country's interests, ITAR-TASS reported. Some decrees were illegal,
he said. Babilashvili chairs a state commission investigating the
financial activities of the Georgian cabinet; he hinted that its
findings could form the basis for initiating criminal proceedings.
Babilashvili's statement could herald the arrest of former Prime
Minister Tengiz Sigua, who was dismissed by President Eduard
Shevardnadze in 1993 and was compromised by his support in early 1995
for the abortive crusade by former Defense Minister Tengiz Kitovani to
reconquer the breakaway region of Abkhazia. Also on 29 July, in his
weekly Georgian radio interview, Shevardnadze again reiterated that
there are no political prisoners in Georgia. -- Liz Fuller

NEW RUSSIAN MEDIATOR FOR KARABAKH TALKS. Yurii Yukalov, the former
ambassador to Zimbabwe, will replace Vladimir Kazimirov as chief Russian
mediator in talks over the Karabakh conflict, Noyan Tapan reported on 29
July. Baku was reportedly unhappy with the work of Kazimirov. On 26 July
a mission from the Azerbaijan Milli Majlis (parliament) led by Zakhid
Garalov concluded its visit to Georgia. Among the issues discussed was
the possible creation of a joint force to guard the oil pipeline across
Georgia. It was agreed to form a standing conference between the
Georgian and Azerbaijani parliaments. -- Peter Rutland

U.S. CONGRESS DEBATES AID TO ARMENIA, AZERBAIJAN. On 26 July the U.S.
Senate approved a $95 million aid bill for Armenia, the largest since
independence, Groong reported on 29 July. The Senate also approved a
continuation of the ban on U.S. aid to the government of Azerbaijan,
which was introduced in 1992 in response to its blockade of Armenia. The
House version of the bill included for the first time provision for aid
for the 115,000 refugees in Nagorno-Karabakh, but this was absent from
the Senate draft. Remaining differences between the two bills will be
reconciled on 31 July. -- Peter Rutland

GOVERNMENT IN CONTROL OF TAVIL-DARA. An ITAR-TASS correspondent was
allowed into the town of Tavil-Dara on 27-28 July. The unnamed
correspondent confirmed that Tajik government forces had regained
control of the town on 12 July. The date has been disputed by the
opposition which claims the government launched an offensive to reclaim
the town after a ceasefire agreement had been signed in Ashgabat,
Turkmenistan. There has been no other independent confirmation of the
situation in Tavil-Dara. Fighting continues in many of the villages
surrounding the town. -- Bruce Pannier

TAJIK ACADEMICIAN GUNNED DOWN IN DUSHANBE. Mohammed Osimi, the 76-year-
old former president of Tajikistan's Academy of Sciences, was shot and
killed near his home by an unidentified assailant on 29 July, ITAR-TASS
and RFE/RL reported. Osimi was the leader of the Payvand organization
which keeps in touch with Tajik communities around the world. He was not
known to have been involved in any political activity. Security services
in Tajikistan speculate the murder was aimed at further destabilizing
the situation in the country but have no leads to the murderer. -- Bruce
Pannier

ALUMINUM PROJECT FOR KAZKAKHSTAN. At a ceremony at the European Bank for
Reconstruction and Development in London on 29 July, Western investors
signed a seven-year, $1.5 billion plan to develop the aluminum industry
in Kazkahstan, RTR reported. The project includes the development of a
new bauxite deposit in Kostanai and new processing facilities at the
main Pavlodar plant. -- Peter Rutland

[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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