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OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 156, Part I, 13 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
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RUSSIA

LEBED TAKES CHARGE OF CHECHEN TALKS . . . Security Council Secretary
Aleksandr Lebed returned to Moscow from Chechnya on 12 August and
briefed President Yeltsin on the results of his talks with Chechen Chief
of Staff Aslan Maskhadov, Russian and Western agencies reported. Lebed
later said that Yeltsin approved the general outline of the settlement
plan he had discussed with Maskhadov, and would issue a decree within
the next 48 hours empowering the Security Council head to implement it.
Lebed said that Maskhadov had reacted positively to his proposal that
Chechnya be granted a level of autonomy within the federation similar to
that of Tatarstan. He added that they had both agreed that the current
fighting must he stopped before serious political talks can begin.
Chechen leaders have previously insisted on full independence, and
earlier talks repeatedly foundered on that issue. -- Scott Parrish

. . . ANNOUNCES CEASEFIRE . . . Lebed also announced that a ceasefire
would begin in Chechnya at 3 p.m. Moscow time, and added that Gen.
Konstantin Pulikovskii, the federal forces commander, would soon begin
talks with Maskhadov on a mutual disengagement of forces. Chechen
Information Minister Movladi Udugov offered a very positive assessment
of Lebed's talks with Maskhadov, which he said offered "serious hope"
that the conflict could be resolved. However, as of midnight on 12
August, Chechen military spokesmen said that Maskhadov had still not
spoken with Pulikovskii, complaining that repeated attempts to contact
the Russian commander had proven fruitless. -- Scott Parrish

. . . AND BLASTS PREDECESSORS IN CHECHNYA. Lebed also expressed outrage
at the state of federal troops in Chechnya, saying they are lice-ridden,
underfed, and dressed in rags. He said they had been sent to Chechnya as
"cannon fodder," and should be recalled from combat for "purely
humanitarian considerations." Lebed also lashed out at the "failure" of
the State Commission for Regulating the Chechen Conflict, headed by
Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, which he described as "having made
no positive progress," and attacked pro-Moscow Chechen leader Doku
Zavgaev as a liar with "delusions of grandeur." He also criticized the
"passivity" of Oleg Lobov, his predecessor as presidential
representative in Chechnya and currently first deputy prime minister.
Lebed said "someone wants me very much to break my neck over this
assignment. We'll see. I like tough assignments. They excite me." --
Scott Parrish

CHECHEN FIGHTERS ATTACK FEDERAL HEADQUARTERS NEAR GROZNY. Despite talk
in Moscow of an imminent ceasefire, Chechen separatist fighters on 12
August launched an assault on the federal forces headquarters in
Khankala, a Grozny suburb, Russian and Western agencies reported. They
were beaten off after an hour of heavy fighting. Russian military
spokesmen told ITAR-TASS early on 13 August that separatist fighters
continued to offer "fierce resistance" to federal troops. NTV reported
that separatist fighters still controlled much of the city, which
federal forces continue to blast with indiscriminate artillery barrages.
Meanwhile, according to AFP, separatist fighters ambushed a Russian
convoy near Vedeno, killing 20 federal troops, and fighting also
continues in Argun and Gudermes. An RFE/RL correspondent reported on 11
August that a Russian unit had taken hospital workers hostage in an
attempt to escape encirclement by Chechen fighters. -- Scott Parrish

YELTSIN POSTPONES VACATION. President Yeltsin has decided to postpone
his vacation plans this week in order to deal with the renewed fighting
in Chechnya and other pressing issues such as the upcoming regional
elections, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 August. Yeltsin had been expected to
arrive at a sanitarium in Valday, 145 km from Novgorod, this week. The
president is now planning to begin his vacation on 19 August. -- Robert
Orttung

JOURNALIST KILLED IN CHECHNYA. Ramzan Khadzhev, a Russian Public TV
(ORT) correspondent, has been shot dead in Chechnya, AFP reported on 12
August, quoting Interfax. If Khadzhev's death is confirmed, it will
bring to 17 the number of journalists killed in Chechnya since the
beginning of the conflict in December 1994. Meanwhile, the Glasnost
Protection Foundation claimed that federal troops in Chechnya have
recently launched another campaign of harassment against journalists who
cover the Chechen conflict. For instance, on 8 August, federal forces
fired on the cars of journalists representing various international news
agencies. -- Anna Paretskaya

REFUGEE CRISIS IN CHECHNYA CONTINUES. About 12,000 refugees from the
Chechen capital have gathered in the villages of Staraya Sunzha, Starye
Atagi, and Kalinino just outside of Grozny, ITAR-TASS reported on 12
August. The refugees, who started to leave Grozny after several days of
heavy fighting in the city, are running out of food, water, and
medicine. The local hospital cannot house all those who are in need of
medical care. A corridor for refugees, which federal troops promised to
open by 2 p.m. on 12 August, has not come into existence. Federal forces
are refusing to let any men out of the town, fearing that rebels will
escape along with the refugees. -- Anna Paretskaya

HARDLINERS DENOUNCE COMMUNIST PARTY. The leader of the Russian Communist
Workers' Party, Viktor Tyulkin, has asked Gennadii Zyuganov's Communist
Party of the Russian Federation to remove the word "communist" from its
name so as not to discredit the very idea of communism and confuse
working people, Izvestiya reported on 13 August. Tyulkin's request was
sparked by the Communists' decision to vote for the confirmation of
Viktor Chernomyrdin as prime minister in the Duma on 10 August.
Tyulkin's party refused to join the new Popular-Patriotic Union, arguing
that it had moved too far away from the ideas of "true communism." --
Robert Orttung

PRAVDA STILL HOPES TO RETURN. Pravda editor Aleksandr Ilin 12 August
said that he wants to revive the paper, but there is no sign of an
agreement in the dispute between the paper's editorial staff and its
Greek publishers, Theodoros and Christos Giannikos, Russian TV reported.
The paper published its last issue on 24 July, although the publishers,
Pravda International, continue to put out the tabloid Pravda-5. Ilin
claimed that the paper has the potential attain a circulation of 30
million--the number of people who voted for Communist leader Gennadii
Zyuganov--although the paper's circulation when it folded was only
200,000. -- Robert Orttung

CAMPAIGN STARTS IN KALININGRAD AND LENINGRAD OBLASTS. Seven candidates
have been registered to contest the 6 October Kaliningrad Oblast
election, including the incumbent, Yurii Matochkin, Radio Rossii
reported. Meanwhile, five gubernatorial hopefuls in Leningrad Oblast
have started to gather the required 13,000 nomination signatures, RFE/RL
reported. Aleksandr Belyakov, the incumbent who is a member of the pro-
government Our Home Is Russia, plans to stand for re-election in the 29
September election. Kaliningrad and Leningrad are among first federation
subjects to hold regional elections this year. -- Anna Paretskaya

NAZDRATENKO UNHAPPY WITH FINDINGS OF PRESIDENTIAL OVERSIGHT
ADMINISTRATION. Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko has
withheld his signature from the findings of a government body
investigating the finances of his krai's administration, saying a more
thorough check should be carried out, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 August.
The president's Main Oversight Administration (GKU) came to the krai on
5 August to look into the distribution of federal funds allocated to the
energy sector over the past two years. During the recent power cuts and
the miners' strike in Primore, allegations surfaced that part of the 60
billion rubles ($11.5 million at today's rate) allotted by Yeltsin in
January for miners' wages was spent on other matters. The GKU reported
its findings at a closed session on 11 August. According to an ITAR-TASS
source, the GKU concluded that the local authorities are more to blame
for the recent crises than the federal government. The results of a
similar government investigation in May this year were never publicized.
-- Penny Morvant

RUSSIAN ARMS TO SOUTH KOREA. South Korea has sent 30 officers to Russia
to learn how to operate the tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, and
missiles that will soon be delivered to the Asian country, a South
Korean Defense Ministry spokesman told ITAR-TASS on 12 August. The
spokesman said that the transfer is part of the first large arms deal
between the two countries. He said that the first shipment would arrive
by the end of August. Russia agreed in 1995 to provide military
equipment to South Korea in partial repayment of its debt. -- Doug
Clarke

LACK OF FUNDING FOR EDUCATION LAMENTED. Writing in Megapolis-kontinent
(no. 32), Duma Science and Education Committee Deputy Chairman Oleg
Smolin lamented the low funding of education and warned that it could
seriously undermine Russia's long-term well-being. Smolin, a member of
former Soviet Prime Minister Nikolai Ryzhkov's Popular Power Duma
faction, cited the World Bank as estimating that spending on education
fell from 7% of GDP in the USSR in 1970 to 3.4% in Russia in 1994.
Osipov supported a draft amendment to the 1996 budget raising this
year's allocation for education from 15.2 trillion rubles ($2.9 billion)
to 29 trillion rubles. He said that the budget as it stands does not
take into account pay increases for teachers envisaged in an August 1995
government resolution and that it is based on an average monthly salary
for teachers of 316,000 rubles ($60), a third of the average in
industry. -- Penny Morvant

FATHER WARDS OFF POLICE TO SAVE SON FROM DRAFT. A 20-year-old man
seeking to avoid the draft has barricaded himself with his father in
their home in the Khabarovsk Krai village of Kherpuchi, Izvestiya
reported on 13 August. When police came to the house to take the boy
away, the father opened fire out of a window with a rifle. After police
released the son, the two barricaded themselves in the house. According
to official figures, since 1992 about 30,000 young men have dodged the
draft in each of the twice yearly call-ups. About 70% of draft-age men
are eligible for some form of deferment. -- Penny Morvant

TUPOLEV WANTS TO BUILD A NEW SUPERSONIC TRANSPORT. Russian and U.S.
specialists on 12 August conducted the first ground tests of the
modified Tu-144 supersonic transport at the Zhukovskii air base near
Moscow, RIA reported. The Tu-144LL will be used as a flying laboratory
during a six-month test program largely funded by the U.S. space agency
NASA. Tupolev's chief designer, Aleksandr Pukhov, told Reuters that the
plane could become the prototype of the "supersonic jet of the next
century." Tupolev has designed an upgraded engine for the new venture.
-- Doug Clarke

CHERNOMYRDIN ON BUDGET PROBLEMS. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin,
addressing officials of the State Tax Service on 13 August, said that
said 25% of economic activity is evading taxes, ITAR-TASS reported. He
complained of "excessive generosity in granting various concessions,"
and said that 60 trillion rubles of additional revenue will be needed to
cover the minimum federal expenditure for the remainder of1996, which he
estimated to be 130 trillion rubles, including 50 trillion for the
"power ministries." -- Peter Rutland

STATE AID FOR NORILSK NICKEL. President Yeltsin has signed a decree
ordering a broad range of federal help for the troubled metal giant
Norilsk Nickel, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 August. The plant has been the
subject of political and legal battles since ONEKSIMbank acquired 38% of
its shares in a loan auction last November. Norilsk Nickel, located in
the far north of Krasnoyarsk Krai in Siberia, had debts of 3.9 trillion
rubles ($750 million) at the end of June, Segodnya reported on 2 July.
It is unable to purchase supplies for its workforce or relocate
pensioners to southern districts. The new measures under the Yeltsin
decree include postponing the repayment of federal loans, government
guarantees for new bank credits, and an emergency issue of 500 billion
rubles from federal reserves. -- Peter Rutland

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

MORE ON RUSSIAN PEACEKEEPERS IN ABKHAZIA. The Russian Federation Council
has agreed to double the number of troops in the Russian-dominated CIS
peacekeeping force in Abkhazia to 3,000 and expand their operations to
cover all of the Gali District, according to a 9 August Georgian Radio
report monitored by the BBC. The council had earlier decided to extend
the force's mandate until 31 January 1997 (see OMRI Daily Digest, 9
August 1996). Russia's ambassador to Georgia described the new policing
functions as a breakthrough. Although the expanded mandate partially
meets a key Georgian demand, it is only a cosmetic change since it does
not state how and when the peacekeepers will be able to ensure the
return of Georgian refugees to their homes in Abkhazia. Several Georgian
politicians, including the chairman of the Georgian National Democratic
Party and the Georgian United Republican Party, have strongly criticized
the decision to extend the mandate. -- Lowell Bezanis

MKHEDRIONI LEADER SENTENCED. One of the former leaders of the Mkhedrioni
(Centurions) paramilitary group, Alexandre Bochorishvili, has been
sentenced to 12 years imprisonment, according to a 9 August Kontakt news
agency report monitored by the BBC. Bochorishvili, a former security
adviser to Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, was found guilty of
possessing large amounts of arms and drugs with the intent of selling
them. -- Lowell Bezanis

AZERBAIJANI COUP-PLOTTERS ARRESTED IN DAGESTAN. Three men wanted in
Azerbaijan in connection with the March 1995 coup-attempt were arrested
in a joint Russian-Azerbaijani operation in Dagestan, according to an 8
August Interfax report monitored by the BBC. -- Lowell Bezanis

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL REPORT ON KAZAKHSTAN PRISONS. Amnesty
International (AI) has released a report on the grim conditions in
Kazakhstani prisons, RFE/RL reported on 12 August. At the beginning of
1996, Kazakhstan, a country of 17 million people, had 78 prisons holding
94,000 people, 20,000 of whom were awaiting trial, according to the
report. In June, the country's government amnestied 20,000 prisoners
convicted of non-violent crimes. An estimated 10,000 inmates in the
prison system are suffering from tuberculosis. Amnesty estimates that
1,270 prisoners died of the disease last year and 450 have died so far
this year. Kazakhstan ranks fourth in the world in terms of the number
of executions carried out every year. In 1995, 110 people were sentenced
to death and 101 executions were carried out. Deputy Interior Minister
Nikolai Vlasov told AI that the death penalty is less cruel than life in
a Kazakhstani prison. -- Bruce Pannier

[As of 12:00 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez

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            Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc.
                      All rights reserved. ISSN 1211-1570
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