Human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast obscure unfinished masterpiece. - Vladimir Nabokov
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 157, Part I, 14 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

CEASEFIRE IN GROZNY? The commander of Federal Forces in Chechnya,
Gen. Konstantin Pulikovskii, and separatist Chechen Chief of Staff
Aslan Maskhadov met in the Chechen village of Novye Atagi on 13
August to discuss a ceasefire, Russian and Western agencies reported.
Following the three-hour meeting, a Chechen spokesman told Russian
media that a ceasefire would go into effect at noon on 14 August, and
troops from both sides would pull back from the front lines. However,
a spokesman for the federal military command later denied that a
ceasefire agreement had been concluded, terming the media reports
"premature." He added that Pulikovskii and Maskhadov had merely
agreed to limit combat operations to allow the exchange of the dead
and wounded, the delivery of medical supplies, and the evacuation of
civilians. Despite the Russian denials, separatist Chechen
Information Minister Movladi Udugov told AFP that Chechen fighters
would observe the announced ceasefire. -- Scott Parrish

FIGHTING STILL RAGES IN GROZNY. While ceasefire talks got underway,
fighting continued in Grozny and other parts of Chechnya on 13
August, Russian and Western media reported. Intense street fighting
continued in the center of Grozny, especially around the local
headquarters of the Federal Security Service, located near the
government complex. Chechen fighters claim to control about 80% of
Grozny, and NTV blasted federal military spokesmen for "lying" about
the situation in the city. The network did report a decrease in the
intensity of air and artillery strikes by the federal forces,
however. Fighting also continued around Argun and Gudermes, but
Chechen fighters now control both towns. Meanwhile, the federal
command announced that 221 federal troops have been killed, and 766
wounded in the recent Grozny fighting. Chechen spokesmen claim that
1,230 federal soldiers have been killed. -- Scott Parrish

DEBATE OVER IMPOSING STATE OF EMERGENCY IN CHECHNYA. In an interview
with Russian TV (RTR) on 13 August, acting Justice Minister Valentin
Kovalev said he opposes Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's
recommendation that a state of emergency be imposed in Chechnya (see
OMRI Daily Digest, 12 August 1996). Kovalev said that despite his
personal opposition, his ministry is moving forward with preparations
to implement a state of emergency in Chechnya, which he described as
an "extremely complicated" process. He said that under old
legislation pre-dating the 1993 constitution, regular military forces
cannot be used to implement a state of emergency. He also argued that
declaring a state of emergency would trigger a negative domestic and
international reaction. Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed
also opposes such a step, saying that "there are no resources" to
implement it. -- Scott Parrish

REFUGEE CRISIS IN CHECHNYA INTENSIFIES. According to Russian media
reports, thousands of refugees from Grozny remain trapped in Staraya
Sunzha and other villages just outside the city, as federal troops
have not yet opened a promised corridor for their evacuation. Abdula
Bugayev, a government official at the Staraya Sunzha refugee center,
told ITAR-TASS that it is impossible to count all the refugees, and
warned that the center is running out of food. Meanwhile, AFP
reported that Russian troops had refused to permit three
International Red Cross trucks carrying food and medicine to reach
the refugee center. A separatist spokesman estimated that up to
30,000 refugees are trapped in the area, and said federal forces
"periodically open random artillery fire on them." Meanwhile, the
pro-Moscow Chechen government released a statement calling on federal
forces to "stop the extermination of unarmed civilians," and calling
for the immediate opening of a humanitarian corridor to evacuate the
refugees. -- Scott Parrish

YELTSIN NAMES NEW PRESS SECRETARY . . . President Yeltsin appointed
former Russian Ambassador to Slovakia Sergei Yastrzhembskii to be his
press secretary on 13 August, replacing his former spokesman who took
the job of first deputy general director of Russian Public TV (ORT),
Kommersant-Daily reported. Medvedev was the most recent associate of
former Presidential Security Service Director Aleksandr Korzhakov to
fall victim to Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais's purge of Yeltsin's
inner circle. The old press secretary did a good job of limiting
access to the Kremlin, particularly in the case of NTV, and his
successor is unlikely to reveal more, Ekho Moskvy commented. Chubais
has been very successful in surrounding the old president with a
group of young liberals who are now in a position to increase their
power. Medvedev suffered a better fate than his predecessor,
Vyacheslav Kostikov, who was appointed to be Russia's ambassador to
the Vatican and then fired after criticizing Yeltsin. -- Robert
Orttung

. . . AND MAKES MORE APPOINTMENTS IN HIS ADMINISTRATION. Yeltsin
filled out the ranks of his administration by appointing Sergei
Samoilov to head the Territorial Department, Vyacheslav Romanov to
head the Personnel Department, and Andrei Loginov to head the
Department for Ties with Political Parties, Social Organizations, and
Federal Assembly Factions and Deputies, ITAR-TASS reported. Valentin
Yumashev became Yeltsin's third adviser, following the appointments
of Sergei Krasavchenko and Vyacheslav Volkov to this newly created
position, and he will specialize in links with the media. Yumashev
has worked at Ogonek since 1987 and became its general director in
1995. Although Yeltsin had sought to rationalize his administration,
numerous overlapping jurisdictions remain. -- Robert Orttung

CHUBAIS, CHERNOMYRDIN AIM TO CURTAIL LEBED'S POWER. Kremlin insiders
are concerned that Lebed's visibility in working to end the fighting
in Chechnya may strengthen his position among President Yeltsin's
closest aides. Chief of Staff Chubais advised Yeltsin not to grant
Lebed's 12 August request to be charged with resolving the Chechen
conflict, fearing that such a move would give the retired general too
much power, Izvestiya reported on 14 August. Rossiiskaya gazeta, the
newspaper controlled by Prime Minister Chernomyrdin, responded to
Lebed's criticism of the Chernomyrdin-led commission for resolving
the conflict by asking sarcastically in an editorial critical of the
press conference, "Are we going to talk in vain again?" During the
press conference, Lebed said that his appointment as the president's
representative to Chechnya was part of a Kremlin intrigue to make him
look bad by assigning him to resolve an intractable problem. --
Robert Orttung

JOURNALIST'S DEATH CONFIRMED. Colleagues of Russian Public TV (ORT)
journalist Ramzan Khadzhiev have confirmed that he was shot in the
head twice by Russian federal soldiers on 11 August while trying to
flee from Grozny with his family during the rebel siege, Russian and
Western media reported. The circumstances of his death are unclear:
ORT reported that the journalist had received numerous threats from
rebels who accused him of a pro-Moscow bias. -- Anna Paretskaya

BOMB BLAST IN DAGESTAN. One person was injured and a city hospital
slightly damaged when a home-made bomb blew up in the Dagestani
capital of Makhachkala on 13 August, ITAR-TASS reported, citing a
Federal Security Service spokesman. The first deputy interior
minister of Dagestan, Valerii Beev, blamed the explosion on
hooligans. Some observers, however, claim that it could have been an
attempt on the life of Dagestani Deputy Prime Minister Said Amirov,
who lives near the hospital. -- Anna Paretskaya

TULA MINERS GET PAYMENTS. The Tula Oblast administration has started
to pay overdue wages to workers at the Podmoskovnaya pit, ITAR-TASS
reported on 13 August. Sixteen miners at Podmoskovnaya are on a
hunger strike in the pit. The oblast administration received 8
billion rubles ($1.5 million) from the federal budget and a 5 billion
ruble loan from a commercial bank to pay off the back wages and buy
basic food products. The company owes its workers about 80 billion
rubles in unpaid wages dating back to March. Six out of the 13 pits
owned by the Tulaugol company have either entirely or partially
ceased operating. -- Anna Paretskaya

TATARSTAN TAKES CHECHEN SIDE. The president of Tatarstan, Mintimer
Shaimiev, has called on the federal government not to send Interior
Ministry troops from Tatarstan to fight in Chechnya, RFE/RL reported
on 14 August. The same day, Shamil Basaev, the rebel Chechen
commander, thanked the people of Tatarstan for the humanitarian aid
that was sent to Chechnya from the Tatar city of Naberezhnye Chelny.
Earlier this year, Shaimiev volunteered to mediate between the
federal government and Chechen militants in peace negotiations. Last
week, Shaimiev blamed the recent escalation of the conflict in
Chechnya on the federal government's inconsistent and contradictory
policies. -- Anna Paretskaya

PRIMORSKII KRAI GOVERNOR NOT GUILTY IN FINANCIAL CRISIS. Yevgenii
Nazdratenko has been cleared of blame for a scandal surrounding a
federal allotment of money to the region, Russian TV (RTR) reported
on 13 August. The investigation, which was carried out by the
presidential Main Oversight Administration (GKU), looked into the
fate of a federal budget allotment of 60 billion rubles ($11.5
million) that was earmarked for paying overdue wages to miners in the
region. The money was split between the coal company Primorskugol and
the electrical energy supplier Dalenergo. Both companies later spent
the money separately without the participation of the krai
administration. Nazdratenko, who refuted accusations of wrongdoing,
was a strong supporter of President Yeltsin during the recent
election. -- Anna Paretskaya

AGREEMENT WITH LONDON CLUB IS LIKELY TO BE IMPLEMENTED. First Deputy
Finance Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said that most of the London Club's
600 creditor banks are likely to support the framework agreement on
restructuring Russia's $32.5 billion debt (including interest) signed
by Russia and the club's coordination committee in November 1995, RTR
and Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 12-13 August. Under the plan,
Russia's debt should be repaid over 25 years with a seven-year grace
period, during which it will pay only interest, although some reports
are now suggesting slightly different terms. So far, banks holding $2
billion worth of debt have signed onto the deal, which will go into
effect when the signatory's debts reach $20 billion. Recently,
Russian debt has been trading at 55 cents on the dollar on the
secondary market, up from 33 cents earlier in the year. -- Natalia
Gurushina

ARS PRESSES FOR FINAL DEAL WITH DE BEERS. Russia's largest producer
and exporter of uncut diamonds, Almazy Rossii-Sakha, has restarted
negotiations on the trade agreement with South Africa's De Beers, AFP
reported on 13 August. The two sides signed a preliminary three-year
deal in February 1996, but discussion of the final contract was put
on hold pending the presidential election. De Beers is complaining
that exports of uncut stones from Russia have risen from $10-15
million in March-April to $40-60 million in June. Under the
preliminary deal, Russia promised to restrict such sales to 5% of the
amount sold to De Beers. Russian authorities also believe that these
unauthorized exports undermine the development of the domestic
cutting industry. -- Natalia Gurushina

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

ASTRONOMER AMBARTSUMYAN DIES. Viktor Ambartsumyan, internationally
renown for his work in theoretical astrophysics and stellar
astronomy, died on 11 August, ITAR-TASS and Western media reported
two days later. In 1989, he went on a three-week hunger strike to
bring attention to Nagorno-Karabakh's efforts to secede from
Azerbaijan. Yerevan plans a state funeral for the scientist who
served as the president of Armenia's Academy of Sciences from 1946 to
1993. -- Lowell Bezanis

SHEVARDNADZE ON ECONOMY. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said
inflation will not exceed 15-18% this year, and GDP will rise by 10%,
according to a 12 August statement on Georgian Radio monitored by the
BBC. He noted that the tax inspectorate has trebled its contribution
to the budget over the last year, which has now reached 150 million
lari. He also said there has been an increase in exports, notably in
wine with 5 million bottles exported to Russia, and in tea with 502
metric tons sent to Turkmenistan. Shevardnadze added that Georgia is
set to supply Uzbekistan with 2,000 metric tons of tea and 50 million
bottles of Borjomi mineral water. -- Lowell Bezanis

NATURAL GAS CONSORTIUM FOUNDED. The U.S. firm Unocal, Saudi Arabia's
Delta, Russia's Gazprom, and the joint Turkmen-Russian Turkmenrusgaz
have signed a memorandum of understanding on the $2 billion project
to move natural gas from Turkmenistan's Dauletbad field to Pakistan
via Afghanistan, Western agencies reported on 13 August. The
companies will now negotiate a definitive agreement defining the
rights and obligations of each member of the consortium, according to
AFP. Unocal and Delta together will hold an 85% share in the deal,
Gazprom 10%, and Turkmenrusgaz 5%. Unocal's chairman said additional
parties will be invited to join the consortium. -- Lowell Bezanis

UZBEKISTAN TO ASSIST REPATRIATION OF CRIMEAN TATARS. Following a
visit to Ukraine, Uzbek President Islam Karimov has expressed a
willingness to help Crimean Tatars currently living in Uzbekistan to
return to their homeland, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 August. The deputy
speaker of the Crimean parliament, Refat Chubarov, said Karimov will
participate in the establishment of a mechanism to ensure
repatriation. Uzbekistan has, up until this point, refused to address
the issue. -- Roger Kangas

COSSACKS DEMONSTRATE AGAINST KAZAKHSTANI GOVERNMENT. A group of
Cossacks from northern Kazakhstan and "Moscow nationalists" rallied
near the Kazakhstani Embassy in Moscow on 13 July to protest against
Almaty's policies toward them, NTV reported. The leader of the
Siberian Cossack Army, Viktor Antoshko, said the Kazakhstani
government does not defend the rights of the country's non-Kazakh
citizens and that crimes committed against non-Kazakhs often go
unpunished. He claimed that Kazakhs have been awarded all positions
of authority in the country's banking system, law enforcement
agencies, government, and court system. -- Bruce Pannier


[As of 12:00 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez

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