The world is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion. - Thomas Paine
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 152, Part I, 7 August 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

CHECHEN MILITANTS "IN CONTROL OF GROZNY." Heavy fighting in Grozny
between Chechen militants and Russian forces continued during the
night of 6-7 August, and as of mid-morning on 7 August the Chechen
detachments were "in effective control" of the city, Reuters
reported. On 6 August, the Russians lost four helicopter gunships and
23 Russian troops were killed and 91 injured, according to Reuters.
Confusion persists over the identity of the Chechen commander
coordinating the operation. The secretary of the Russian State
Commission for resolving the Chechen crisis told Russian Public TV
(ORT) that it is Ruslan Gilaev, who is based in western Chechnya,
while AFP quoted Chechen Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov as stating
that Shamil Basaev is in charge. It is also unclear whether the
attack on Grozny, Gudermes, and Argun was launched on orders from
acting Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev. Information Minister
Movladi Udugov said the assault is a reprisal for renewed Russian
hostilities, adding that the Chechens still want peace talks. -- Liz
Fuller

STEPASHIN ISSUES ULTIMATUM. Speaking on ORT on 6 August, the
secretary of the Russian State Commission on resolving the Chechen
conflict, Sergei Stepashin, warned that unless acting Chechen
President Yandarbiev disassociates himself from the offensive within
two hours and takes immediate action together with Chief of Staff
Maskhadov to withdraw the Chechen detachments from Grozny, Russia
will not agree to any further peace talks. President Boris Yeltsin
and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin called for the
"neutralization" of the Chechen militants without using heavy
weapons, ORT reported. -- Liz Fuller

MINERS' UNION THREATENS NATIONWIDE STRIKE. The Russian Coal Industry
Workers' Union threatened on 6 August to call a nationwide strike if
debts to miners are not paid by 25 August, international media
reported. Union officials estimate the industry is owed about 1.7
trillion rubles ($326 million) by defaulting customers and 250
billion in delayed state subsidies. In Rostov Oblast, striking miners
called a government pledge to transfer 55 billion rubles to pay back
wages insufficient; workers at two pits in Tula have walked out; and
miners in Vorkuta are threatening to strike on 8 August. In Primore,
ITAR-TASS reported on 7 August that miners had gone back to work at
about half the pits affected by the strike there. The previous day,
union leader Vitalii Budko accused the Russian media of Soviet-style
disinformation when they reported that the strike had ended,
according to the Hindustan Times. -- Penny Morvant

PRIMORSKII SYNDROME SPREADS. The energy crisis that has gripped the
Russian Far East is spreading to Volgograd Oblast. Electricity
supplies have been cut off to 200 enterprises, including the giant
Krasnyi Oktyabr steel mill, Russian TV (RTR) reported on 6 August.
Customer debts to the local energy company Volgogradenergo now total
1 trillion rubles ($190 million), of which some 53 billion rubles are
owed by Krasnyi Oktyabr. The plant's stoppage will result in an
estimated 100 billion rubles loss per month. -- Natalia Gurushina

GOVERNMENT MAY REVOKE PREELECTION SPENDING PROMISES. The government
has drafted a decree that envisages delaying some of President
Yeltsin's preelection promises, Segodnya reported on 6 August. The
draft, prepared by the special operational group on the budget crisis
chaired by Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin (see OMRI Daily Digest
1 August 1996), reportedly plans the postponement of four federal
laws, 24 presidential decrees, and 14 governmental decrees, the
implementation of which would cost the federal budget 41 trillion
rubles ($7.9 billion). The paper suggests that this move will provoke
intense lobbying by industrialists and regional elites. -- Natalia
Gurushina

YELTSIN MEETS WITH CHUBAIS, CHERNOMYRDIN, LEBED. President Boris
Yeltsin met with his key subordinates on his first day back at work
on 6 August following a three-week rest, ITAR-TASS reported. Yeltsin
reviewed the situation in Chechnya with Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin and with Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed.
Lebed then seemed to encroach on Chernomyrdin's turf in the field of
national economy by discussing with Yeltsin the shipping of cargo to
remote areas of the country. Yeltsin also discussed the possibility
of holding his inauguration in the State Kremlin Palace with Chief of
Staff Anatolii Chubais, which would save the 6 billion rubles that
may have to be spent to disperse clouds if the ceremony is held
outdoors. -- Robert Orttung

AGRARIANS JOCKEY FOR POWER WITHIN LEFT BLOC. Leaders of the Agrarian
Party of Russia (APR) formally agreed to join Gennadii Zyuganov's new
Popular-Patriotic Union of Russia but also passed a resolution
demanding that APR leader Mikhail Lapshin be made co-chairman of the
union, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 August. Lapshin argued that since
rural dwellers are among the most active left-wing voters, the
Agrarians "should play one of the leading roles in the constructive
opposition" and not merely serve as the Communist Party's "little
brother." Nevertheless, the APR is more dependent on their Communist
allies than vice versa. After a poor showing in the December 1995
parliamentary election, the APR was only able to amass the 35
deputies needed for an official State Duma faction after the
Communists "donated" several deputies. -- Laura Belin

COMMUNISTS DECIDE AGAINST JOINING GOVERNMENT. At a closed plenum, the
Central Committee of Communist Party (KPRF) decided that it would be
"inexpedient" to join the government as long as economic policy is
not changed radically, ITAR-TASS and NTV reported on 6 August. No
KPRF members have been offered cabinet portfolios; however, in recent
weeks observers have speculated that a few allies of the KPRF,
including former presidential candidate Aman Tuleev, may be invited
to join the government. Accepting minor cabinet posts and thereby
tacitly approving the government's policies would deprive the KPRF of
a potent issue in the upcoming regional elections. -- Laura Belin

PREPARATIONS FOR REGIONAL ELECTIONS CONTINUE. President Yeltsin has
ordered Rostov and Pskov oblasts to hold gubernatorial elections in
September and October this year, respectively, ITAR-TASS reported on
6 August. Meanwhile, authorities in the town of Surgut located in
Khanty-Mansiisk Autonomous Okrug, which is in Tyumen Oblast, have
taken steps to prevent candidates from running initiative groups in
the town from endorsing any of the candidates in the oblast's
gubernatorial election, according to ORT. Local authorities consider
the okrug to be independent and are therefore advocating a boycott of
the Tyumen election. Elsewhere, the leader of the Russian Socialist
Party, millionaire Vladimir Bryntsalov, announced that his party will
provide each of its local candidates with about $2 million in
campaign money. -- Anna Paretskaya

RUSSIA BLASTS U.S. SANCTIONS ON IRAN, LIBYA. Foreign Ministry
spokesman Vladimir Andreev condemned a new U.S. anti-terrorist law
aimed at Iran and Libya, international media reported on 6 August.
The law, known as the D'Amato Amendment, reinforces U.S. sanctions
against the two countries and imposes penalties on any companies,
including non-U.S. firms, who invest more than $40 million annually
in their petroleum industries. Andreev termed the law "inadmissible"
and a "violation of international law" because of its "extra-
territorial nature." He called for "coordinated," rather than
"unilateral" measures to combat international terrorism. Western
European countries have also slammed the law's provisions. -- Scott
Parrish

OFFICIAL PAPER WARNS AGAINST ATTEMPT TO ARREST KARADZIC. The official
government paper Rossiiskaya gazeta, responding to Western media
reports that the U.S. is planning a special operation to seize former
Bosnian Serb President Radovan Karadzic, warned on 6 August that any
such action would "derail" the Bosnian peace process. The paper
cautioned that the Serbs would view his arrest as "an act of piracy,"
adding that the use of "elite troops and helicopters" is not the best
way to achieve political stability in Bosnia. Meanwhile, the daily
Delovoi mir published an article arguing that Russia should reverse
the "passive" policies of the former Foreign Minister Andrei
Kozyrev's era and declare the Balkans "a zone of its national
interests." -- Scott Parrish

BLACK SEA FLEET COMMANDER CRITICIZES UKRAINE. Vice Admiral Viktor
Kravchenko, commander of the Black Sea Fleet, condemned recent
critical remarks by Ukrainian Navy commander Vice Admiral Volodymyr
Bezkorovainy (see OMRI Daily Digest, 6 August 1996) as an attempt to
"reverse negotiations on the fleet with superficial statements,"
ITAR-TASS reported. Kravchenko dismissed as "fantasy" Bezkorovainy's
charges that in the process of dividing the fleet, Russia is handing
over to Ukraine only those ships that are fit for the scrap yard and
have been stripped of vital equipment. The Russian admiral charged
that Moscow's "open" and "civilized" approach to negotiations on
dividing the fleet was viewed by the Ukrainian navy command as
"weakness," and warned that Russia might reconsider its stance. --
Scott Parrish

BUDGET SITUATION TIGHT. Federal budget income for the first six
months of the year was 130.7 trillion (84% of plan) and spending
139.3 trillion (95% of plan), ITAR TASS reported on 6 August.
However, budget "income" includes the sale of treasury bonds and the
like; actual tax income was only 82 trillion rubles--62% of the
planned level. First Deputy Finance Minister Andrei Vavilov told the
cabinet on 6 August that by the year's end the deficit may be 88
trillion rubles. He said that "there are neither administrative, nor
criminal, nor bankruptcy procedures" to force firms to pay taxes.
About 30% of federal budget revenue in 1996 is expected to come from
just four regions, Moskovskaya Pravda reported on 6 August. They are:
Moscow city (41 trillion rubles), Khanty-Mansiisk Autonomous Okrug
(23 trillion), Moscow Oblast (12 trillion), and St. Petersburg (9
trillion rubles). -- Peter Rutland

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

ARMENIAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES REGISTER. Seven of the nine putative
candidates for the presidential race submitted their final nomination
petitions by the deadline on 2 August , Noyan tapan reported on 5
August . The Central Electoral Committee will now verify that each
candidate has submitted 25,000 valid signatures. Levon Ter-Petrossyan
collected 39,882 signatures and Sergei Badalyan of the Armenian
Communist Party 36,751. Two candidates withdrew from the race, whose
first round will take place on 23 September. Rafael Hambartsoumyan
failed to raise the required deposit of 2,000,000 drams ($5000),
while businessman Yurii Mkrtchyan complained that lack of time
prevented him from collecting the signatures. -- Peter Rutland

GEORGIAN MILITARY HIGHWAY REOPENS. The main road link between Russia
and the Transcaucasus reopened on 5 August after being closed for one
week, ITAR TASS reported. Heavy rains on 28 July swept away bridges
and several sections of the highway, marooning dozens of travellers,
NTV reported on 30 July. The cost of the damage is estimated at $8
million. -- Peter Rutland

KAZAKHSTANI RELATIONS WITH IRAN, CHINA Talks between Almaty and
Tehran on moving 2 million metric tons of Kazakhstani crude oil
across the Caspian Sea to Iranian ports have stalled, ITAR-TASS
reported on 6 August. Unidentified sources in the Kazakhstani
government said the talks, underway for two years, broke down when
Iran refused to partially cover Kazakhstan's expenses for
transporting the crude across the sea. In other news, the Sino-
Kazakhstani border survey commission reached an agreement in Beijing
on 5 August that will permit them to begin demarcating their mutual
border, according to a Xinhua report monitored by the BBC. -- Lowell
Bezanis

PRISON RIOT IN TURKMENISTAN. Three prisoners were killed and seven
wounded on 4 August when Turkmen authorities put down a prison riot
in Mary Vilayet, Reuters reported on 6 August. Details on the riots
are sketchy, but the day after the mutiny, Turkmen Deputy Interior
Minister Altibai Charyez, national prison head Amansakhat Chungaev,
and other officials were sacked. Turkmenistan's prison system is
reportedly riddled with corruption and conditions in overcrowded
prisons are squalid. In August 1995, 27 mutinous prisoners were
reportedly killed in a maximum security prison in Ashgabat. -- Lowell
Bezanis

GOVERNORS SACKED IN AKHAL, TASHAUZ. Turkmen President Saparmurad
Niyazov has dismissed the provincial governors of Akhal and Tashauz
Vilayet, according to a 3 August Turkmen Press report monitored by
the BBC. The republic's harvest of 480,000 metric tons of grain for
this year rather than the anticipated 1,000,000 tons appears to be
the cause of their dismissal. During a 2 August cabinet meeting where
the "very serious shortcomings and errors" associated with the
harvest were discussed, Niyazov also abolished the ex-officio status
of deputy prime minister granted to all regional heads. In other
news, Turkmen and Russian border guards in the republic have
intercepted 500 "trespassers" and confiscated 900 kg of drugs so far
this year, Radio Rossii reported on 5 August. -- Lowell Bezanis


[As of 12:00 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez

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